Among Brothers - Home EP
Bill Cummings 28/02/2011
In these days of uncertainty music fans look once more toward its (often) unsung DIY heroes, working away (often) behind the scenes on their label, fanzine, band or maybe all three. The chaps behind Cardiff imprint Barely regal records should be applauded in the first instance for their cracking collection of local bands last year and for their musical visions that see them not only strive to work on their own musical adventures in the shape of Among Brothers, The Good Time Boys, along with their solo projects. But they also give a helping hand to those around them whether that's through promoting gigs or their new releases. It's this genuine community spirit aspect that is heart-warming in a music scene often drowning in pointless one up man ship.
Among Brothers is the group made up of Barely Regal head honchos Mattew Fidler (Bass, Vocals) and Isaac Jones (Guitar, Percussion) and joined by Adam Woodward (Drums, Vocals) Jonathan Rees (Keys, Vocals) Jess Rochman (Violin, Vocals) and lead vocalist Alexander Comana. They now release the 'Home EP' their first fully formed release and the second release from their fledgling local label. Among Brothers have already been lauded by the BBC locally and have received almost universal approval on the local scene for their inspiring live shows, but does this first release warrant this kind of attention?
Well the first thing that hits you about 'Home' is its sheer scale and ambition, building up a solid live reputation for instrumental experimentation sprinkled with glitchy electro bleeps and woven with honest to goodness strings, and embellished by swooping vocals that range from desolate, sighing and singular to communal and chanting. It's an impressively grand concoction that's redolent of elements of the electro pop catalogue of The Postal Service, and the post rock sounds capes of early Sigur Ros, and even touches upon the quieter moments of the recent Foals album.
At it's best 'Home' is simply delightful take standout 'Montogolfier' for instance, that's twitching crackling instrumentation loops and brothers in arms themes are given voice by a gloriously interlinked six pronged vocal harmonies. Whilst soaring waves of twinkling percussion led by sighing lead violin lines, sweepp above landscapes and crash to earth. And then before two minutes it's all over too soon.
The quality continues on 'My Head is a Vessel' that marries the instrumental complexity with vocal dexterity most effectively on Home. Because whilst lead vocalist Alex's clipped emo/hardcore delivery is sometimes off-putting, given space to grow and breath it reveals a delightful melodic range. His quivering notes shining a light on a tortured inner dialogue that grows from tender everyday emotion before swooping toward a genuinely life affirming communal crescendos. Above a gathering backdrop of circular piano motifs, crashing cymbals, spluttering onomatopoeic keyboard lines, and joyous xylophones tinkles.
However 'Bare Teeth' shows up Among Brothers present shortcomings, when left alone and isolated without his fellow brothers backing harmonies Alex's delivery sounds too brittle to hold the entire edifice aloft, thus these vocal habits undermine the sheer quality of this six pieces' wide screen sonic palette, that builds from brushed piano lines toward a familiarly grand framework. Closer 'Great Famine Family' returns to the themes and sound of 'Montgolfier' and live favourite 'Sam, Isaiah and the wolf' and highlights the quality of Among Brothers work when they join in not only instrumental union but vocal communality however at seven minutes long and sounding like three or four pieces merged together even committed listeners will feel a little drained and lacking in interest after this late night sprawl through heartbreak, but in its final minute the playful keyboard lines and stripped acapella vocal chorus, it redeems itself.
The five tracks enclosed on Among Brothers debut 'Home EP' shows their vast potential and their clear quality of their communal sound. However on occasion singular vocal frailties sometimes in thrall to Americans convention and a reliance on obvious tricks can make parts of this record sound a little contrived. But beyond these drawbacks and given this is their first release, Home exhibits the scale of ambition and a shuddering range of instrumental epiphanies that houses their throbbing hearts, that vividly depicts why these Brothers are ones to watch.