Breton, War Room Stories

Andrew Harrison

By Andrew Harrison

on 02.10.14 in Reviews

Breton formed in a live-in art community called BretonLABS, based in a derelict bank in Elephant & Castle, South London. They expend as much energy on avant-garde filmmaking and art happenings as they do on music, and they studiously follow a mission statement, to wit: “the deconstruction and reassembly of modern culture.”

A record to get lost in

The fractured compositions and abrasive noisequakes on debut album Other People’s Problems gained them plenty of attention in 2012. The surprise with album two is that for all their artiness — and the fact that they recorded much of War Room Stories in a disused German Communist radio station — Breton can be very easy on the ear. “Legs Arms” has the kind of dewy-eyed whoa-oh-oh refrain that Chris Martin has built a career on, while “Closed Category” is a piece of grandiose orchestral pop fit for TV sports highlights packages and movie trailers.

What elevates it from the generic is a promiscuous attitude to instrumentation. “National Grid”‘s brittle electronic ornamentation, and “Got Well Soon”‘s disco-rock with its ’80s house bassline, add to a mix that boils over with baroque variety. Their production ethic is a restless one, too. Breton tip the self-lacerating lament “Brothers” into an echoing vortex and it emerges as strange, mutated Californian disco. On “S4″ they build a subtle thriller of out of plucked strings and crunching electronic beats, without a guitar to be heard.

The end product is closer to Four Tet’s handmade warptronics, the Krautpop of Public Service Broadcasting or even U2 in their experimental Unforgettable Fire period, than winsome standard-issue radio pop. Both opaque and bottomless, it’s a record to get lost in.