Breton - War Room Stories
Having already offered up a few addictive singles, London band Breton have – to our great satisfaction – released their second full-length collection, a lovely album called War Room Stories. Arriving after last year's partly hip-hop-inspired EP, Force of Habit, the album is a great explosion of sound, dripping with influences that range from film soundtracks, to dark urban attitude and indie-dance energy. Surprisingly, these guys have somehow managed to evade notoriety in the UK, being rather big elsewhere – the largest bastion of fandom being France.
It's surprising because, well, they're good. They're damn good. And whilst following some marginally common though altogether recognisable "indie" tropes – nonchalantly yelped vocals with sing-along appeal, math-style drum fills, a general feeling of cool; all demonstrated in addictive opener 'Envy', and in the second funky half of 'Brothers' – there are many reasons why this is a wholly new offering, something that should be celebrated in terms not only of its actual sound, but also of its progression of "band music".
For starters, let's take the 44-piece orchestra with whom Breton recorded War Room Stories. Songs are given an extra dimension with soaring compositional style – sounds are richer, atmospheres become more epic. For instance, the brass in 'Legs & Arms' gives its verses a thick, brash punchiness, the song itself ending in a crescendo of scrambled strings; the otherwise gentle 'Closed Category' ends similarly, far-flung urgency exhaling from a supreme orchestral gush. In a way, it could be seen as a kind of insta-maturity, but on the other hand it feels much more like an integrated part of the band's sound.
Garage-influences arrive in the booming beats and municipal pizzicato strings of 'S Four', and in the driving bass of 'Got Well Soon', which also exudes a synthpop sensibility – as does the skittering heart-attack beat of 'National Grid', with all its shivering bleeps, with the saw-wave bass of 'Brothers' providing a delicious crunch. Chilled reggae oozes from '302 Watch Towers', whose aching understated synth solo towards the end comes as a glorious surprise.
Closer '15 Minutes' is a composite of all these things, a highly kinetic track that demonstrates the spirited energy of Breton. It's this energy, or passion, that supplies the glue for all the seemingly disparate elements – without it, each song would be an uninspired contrivance. To combine filmic orchestral scores with the punch of hip-hop, the fun of indie-dance, flavours of funk, nocturnal London sounds, glistening electronica, with such natural fluidity makes War Room Stories a genuine pleasure to listen through; and makes it not just an interesting but an important step forward in highlighting the versatility of "the band", as well as in prolonging its perceived shelf-life.
Purchase and listen
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The band have also further honed their skills. They are an even tighter outfit now, and while there is an obvious equanimity amongst the members - they were continuously swapping instruments - it is singer/guitarist Roman Rappak who is clearly the front man and enjoying his place in the spotlight. [read more]
I first saw Breton when they supported Tom Vek on his much vaunted return last year. That certainly wasn't any type of random coming together, as anyone who has followed and worshipped the career of Mr Vek as I have can hear his influence all over this album. I am sure that Breton would prefer to avoid any sort of comparisons with anybody though such is their want and desire to do something different and experiment with sound and vision [read more]