Thursday 6 February 2014


When I first knew the release date for Breton's second (or "sophomore" like an absolute pleb) album War Room Stories, it seemed like an age away. Yeah, and I'd be a different person by that date – maybe I'd be a real person, with a suit and a nice house, and a part to play in local politics; with the whole world changed, we look towards a united effort in space exploration, and I look down at my hands and they seem older, wrinkled elastic. But no. It turns out that a few months zip by in no time. (The) 3rd (of) February arrived a lot sooner than I had imagined. How mundane to talk about a date like this, I'm really sorry.

In any case, it's not like I've been waiting for the date to HEAR the album – that's been done. Heard it a lot, in my car, in my room, and it's fair to say that a) I really like Breton and, b) I think that a lot of people around the UK will love it too. Having been played on BBC 6 Music, it's only a matter of time till they're on Radio 1 – that's when you get big in the UK, isn't it? Anyway, they deserve it. And whilst waiting for the album, there's been a steady flow of tracks and videos, even an EP, released in the meantime. Arguably the catchiest and addictive of these, 'Envy', starts War Room Stories with a bang, a tropico-indie sound, rich with orchestration and nonchalantly yelped vocals, the likes of which appear all over the album with near-intense coarseness that oozes satisfaction. A more melodic example of the vocals is in the dynamic folds of 'Search Party', where the guitar and bass guitar shine out with only minimal plinks from the orchestra, and atmosphere-forming house piano chords; that is until the end where bass gushes forth in brain-drowning quantities.

Where the vocals might not be exactly as strong as they are elsewhere is on 'Legs & Arms' – where they're sung through a megaphone. Maybe I just don't like megaphones or megaphone settings. The rest of the song – a kind of grey day revolution vibe – shows off the 44-piece orchestra with whom Breton recorded this album; rich cascades of strings and bolshie brass blasts, the kind we find on brash, synthy bass-heavy thudder 'Got Well Soon'. Here too the beat, as elsewhere, conveys brimming brutal energy. Recent single 'S Four' gives pride of place to its beat – which by the end is a towering beast of a beat – a fractured dubstep style that thumps below faraway vocals that ask as a simple, looping lyric "How will I be in two places at once? And how will I drag myself out from there?" – add to this rainy night garage-style pizzicato strings, videogame bleeping synths and you have yourself a winner.

Clattering schizoid drums roll their virtuosic way through 'Closed Category', regulating themselves towards the song's end as the strings reach a crying crescendo, a real mind-possessing moment on the album. A similar, energy-catapulting moment is the final part of the final song, 'Fifteen Minutes' – littered with saw-wave bass, gorgeous hi-hat fills and rich piano chords; snare roll leads into an up-tempo crash of sound, synth bleeps playing a buzzing lead, soon followed by the strings – cymbals exploding with the gun-stutter of mental snare and tom drum assaults, ending in a calm of background noise. That fast-paced beat appears before, however, in futuristic and noisy 'National Grid', whose vocals are thickly layered and gloriously laid-back alongside glittering star-like synth leads that lance through the fuzzy phasing bass.

Breton's penchant for hip hop beats, which was shown off in their pre-album EP Force of Habit, comes across in '302 Watch Tower' – a bouncy track which features hypnotising vocal samples and reggae-style bassline, both underpinning a sun-kissed beeping synth solo towards the end. A more experimental beat pops up in next track 'Brothers', comprising of percussive sounds rumbling in thick-aired, dusty rooms, heaped with reverb, like the faraway vocals and ghostly low-register piano. Around halfway through, it comes into its own however, and changes gloriously into a funky, disco number with a beautiful crowd of catchy vocals: an extremely danceable, and ultimately singable, track.

It's difficult to say exactly what is Breton's strength on this album – truth is, it's a lot of things and a lot of things combined that give them their signature sound. The new addition of the 44-piece orchestra gives songs that, perhaps without these soaring organic sounds, might not have the same gravitas as they do with orchestral ecstasies. That said, it's pointless to say that because these songs arrive with orchestra, so that is how they are supposed to sound – hypothetical 'well if they didn't have this then blah blah blah' situations are kind of a non-issue. In other places, the band execute unbeatable moments of excitement – the funk of 'Brothers', the climax of 'Fifteen Minutes', most of 'Envy', for instance – and this is mainly down to the undeniable rhythm with which these guys seem to be partly made of. Composition, and not just because of the orchestra, also plays a large part, with things like 'Brothers' turning from a genreless experimental sound into a tropico-funk disco; 'Legs & Arms' turning gradually from brash to beautiful; 'Fifteen Minutes' and its euphoric ending.

It's a stylistic, at times epic and often dancefloor-led, collection of music, familiar enough to please general crowds of music-likers, and creative enough to satisfy those looking for something new in the world of what is essentially indie music; indeed, it marks – and is resultant of – the evolution in indie music from traditional 'band' formations, adding not only classical instruments, but also elements of urban electronic music with which the music world is suffused: as natural as it is original.

War Room Stories is OUT NOW and available for purchase both digitally and of course physically.

Also check out the YES/NO interview with Breton's frontman Roman Rappak!

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