Instrumental trio’s debut is a wonderfully realised set of aggression and elegance.
Mike Diver 2011-06-27
While undoubtedly influenced to some extent by the mightily impressive instrumental racket made by stateside trio Russian Circles, this British three-piece of vocal-less rock sorts go beyond so many post-rock-meets-metal combos by delivering a sound that is as tight and fine-tuned as it is groove-laden and dance-friendly. It’s one thing to play around with chords and fills and call yourselves an instrumental rock band; quite another, though, to exceed on-paper expectations and nail a debut album that is every bit as nod-along appealing as the best pop to have emerged in time for the summer season.
It’s by keeping proceedings accessible that Brontide shine amongst a slew of could-be sound-alikes; where so many mix meandering guitar work with clever-clever percussion, actively encouraging the application of throttling sub-genres like math-rock, this lot are making music for the everyman in a way that sells their amazing abilities without the musicians ever coming over as indulgent. Opener Matador is the kind of track that an absolute beginner to this sort of fare might mistake as Battles from afar – repetition in the fret work, casting hypnotic patterns, while the man at the kit keeps things buoyant with a series of rim-stinging micro-beats and sharp cymbal play. But creep closer and it breaks free of any pigeonhole by bursting into dramatic life with crunching, everything-at-11 riffs and sticks that don’t just bounce off the snares but threaten to burst them apart. Still, though, there’s a hook-you-in refrain at the centre of the piece, from which the whites of your eyes don’t dare dart from.
Granted, the formula doesn’t truly advance from this point – but when a band has clearly worked long and hard at perfecting an approach, there’s little need to exhibit any kind of jack-of-all-trades angle. Jura is a lighter, almost Tim Kinsella-recalling affair than the preceding Limehouse Ink, which goes for the throat with all the intensity of a hardcore-punk band (that a vocalist isn’t missed is just another example of how expertly realised this controlled assault is); Tenbytwobyfour, meanwhile, crams what seems to be three or four tracks into one, its shifts from tack to tack marvellously managed, the seams conspicuous by their absence. The drumming throughout is exemplary – anyone familiar with the work of William Bowerman (Google away, why don’t you) should expect this – but never wholly dominant: this is a three-piece where each member’s contributions are as lively in the mix as anyone else’s.
The title of this record translates from French as "without worries", and its makers have managed to convey that sense perfectly: this is music made without agendas, without an eye on meeting sales targets or appealing to particular demographics. As a result its potential is massive, the skill of its makers transcending any trending blog scenes or hot-right-now niches.