I get it. Some people need words to connect with another human being. And that’s fine – sometimes, words are all we have. But emotions come in many forms, myriad shades. The lurch of a guitar, the rattle of a drumstick on the frame of a kit; a combination of constituents that, together, convey feeling far greater than any supposed sum of their parts.
Brontide – three young men from different parts of Britain, whose commitment to this band is unwavering in their hearts but necessarily compromised by responsibilities with other bands – are amongst the foremost proponents of a brand of instrumental rock that carries both turbulence and tenderness. Their music doesn’t need a lexicon beyond the interface between instrument and identity, their language a universal one of potentially boundless possibility.
Those familiar with Battles, with Russian Circles, will identify parallels of appeal on this second studio set – the band’s first properly focused album statement after a 2011 debut of more arbitrarily collected cuts. But Brontide’s approach to formulating a long-form record is more streamlined than several peers. Peaks come in hard and dips to more introspective passages rightfully balance these leaps of tempo – but core structures avoid the unnecessary fiddliness synonymous with acts plying a line in lyrics-shorn, dynamic instrumental music.
Which is not to say this can’t get a man dizzy with technical impressiveness. ‘Bare My Bones’ works every inch of its frets, while ‘Knives’ sees those skins given a battering worthy of the Sonisphere main stage. ‘Cabin’ is a number which steps with confidence around Foals-like indie-dance, keeping the momentum rushing and the cymbals properly pulverised so as to not get too distracted by such comparisons. There’s electronics here, too, lending greater depth to already detailed arrangements.
‘Red Gold’ is the cloud-spearing post-rock closer that this band always had in its locker, a rising swell of optimistic chords that tells the listener: hey, seriously, it ain’t all so bad, this Being Alive lark. Then there’s bird song, and then silence. No words, even now. A beautiful stillness that’s all the more pronounced for the wholly bracing, carefully nuanced music that preceded it.
Words: Mike Diver
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In Conversation: William Bowerman, Brontide drummer
Clearly this is quite a progression from the 2011 debut, ‘Sans Souci’, in so much as it sounds designed as an album from the outset – everything fits together splendidly, with the segues and the codas.
Yes, absolutely, it’s what we set out to do. Before, we just had enough songs to make an album, so we tied them all together. Here, we set out to write an album. Every song had to earn its place on the record, and we’d break songs down and borrow melodies from them to best suit the overall album. ‘Bare My Bones’, which is song two, all came out of an outro we’d written for ‘Tonitro’, which is the first song. So, we very much tried to tie everything together from the beginning, rather than try to make things work later on. We all really enjoyed that process, and it’s how we’ll be doing things next time, too.
This album sounds a lot more streamlined than what came before – to me it has all the accessibility of a vocal-led rock album, but without those words. I don’t hear it as so removed from my notion of pop, to be honest.
Well, I don’t think we even listen to very much rock music these days, and the other worlds that I work in, they’re all about hooks. On the first album, I just wanted to put as many fast drum fills on there as I could, to show off a bit, because I was that bit younger. Now we realise that we don’t have to do things like that. We can step back a bit, and make everything more accessible. And looking at the great response the record has had, I think that was a good thing to do. We weren’t sure – we worried that people might find it boring. But it seems that everyone has caught onto what we were trying to do.
It doesn’t lack for aggression, of course. And these songs are going to be heavier live of course. With that in mind, is ‘Artery’ a set that was born on the stage and taken to the studio, or the other way around? Its polish, and the electronics, suggests the latter, to me.
We recorded everything separately, so it’s very much a studio record. But we don’t ever want to put ourselves in the situation where we’ve written music that we can’t recreate live. There are a lot of electronics on it, but we’ve worked that all out and when we do play live it’s going to lose nothing that’s on the record. We’ve been in rehearsals a lot, working out how to do it live – whereas on the first album, it was a case of already having played those songs a lot live, and then taking them in to record.
It shows that other dimension to the band, doesn’t it. You’ve had the time to find yourselves across tours, and other recording sessions, and now this feels like the first proper Brontide album…
Absolutely! I agree, completely. We wanted this album to say everything we were going through at the time.
And what comes next? Are there festivals on the horizon?
Yes, we’ve some coming up. We’re playing Tramlines, which we’re really looking forward to. We have to juggle things, as we all have other things going on. We want to play some dates in August – but we have to aim for quality over quantity when it comes to shows, because of our other lives outside of this band. But we do want to play live as much as we can on this record. We’re willing to work all we can to go forward with this band.
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