Saturday, 27 June 2015

Wringing Out The Broken Water

Olympia's Broken Water have always been a pretty exciting band for me - one of the first entries into the Night People label for me, their mix of atonal distorted quicksand and opaque melodic pop evoking Sonic Youth or early days Blonde Redhead with a bit of Widowspeak colouring the edges. New record Wrought certainly upholds this sounds - listen to the sonorous squall of '1984' or the spoken word and no wave guitar squall histrionics of 'Choice' for example - but there is a cleanliness and effortlessness to some of these tracks that suggests the trio may not have waded out of the deep dark waters of distortion, but have at least found cause to don their Raincoats. Opening gambit 'Hi-Lo' is the clearest indicator that sunshine permeates the darkness, even if opaque ('Am I right or am I wrong/All I know is I do not know'). 'Love & Poverty' is a song in the same world - imagine a Fortuna Pop alum covered by Electrelane at their most pop esoteric. 'Close' floats in on a percolating wave of shoegaze fuzz, before Kanako Pooknyw's vocals takes a downturn, things grind to a low rumble, before we amble along to a wistful close. Elsewhere we see Jon Hanna take vocal duties on the likes of 'Wasted' (whose gravel-ripped round-voweled vocals feels like other 90s progenitors of alternative rock (when that was a positive term) Screaming Trees and Social Distortion) and 'Psycho Static' which feels more akin to Thurston Moore having a narcoleptic dream, eyes at half mast, slight left jaw paralysis, simple strumming, late sun dreaming, before the requisite distortion kicks the needle into another direction but still feels like an amble at its feverish height. Hanna's vocals find another sideways slide on 'Set Free', carved out of a Mascis drawl and a Vedder howl. 'Stone' has more in tune with the lo-fi machinations of Veronica Falls coupled with a high, ragged tempo that Vivian Girls often conjured up. These somewhat obvious touchstones may read as lazy observations, but they help assuage the idea that Wrought and Broken Water themselves are steeped in recognition while upholding their subversions - railing against the surveillance police state of '1984', the soul-crushing monotony of low-level jobs on 'Close'.  The elongated closer 'Beach' though gives us the truest sense of where the band has ended up - on the waterline as day starts its transformation into night, at first ethereal, before the cold whips at the edges of your bones, the stars prick holes in the darkness and start to swirl, convex lines of light, before they shatter and fall to the earth in cacophonous glory. A dreamscape? A nightmare? Reality and fantasy, originality and familiarity, fuse together into one main constant - that Broken Water lapping at your feet. Pick up Wrought here.

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