Sunday 30 May 2010

Album review - Broken Water's Whet

I know Ive posted about Broken Water before. The Olympia, Washington three piece rose out of the ashes of Sisters to create something that held onto the Sonic Youth noise, but brought to the fore the elegaic, raw and ghostly vocals of drummer Kanako Wynkoop (such a juxtaposition will be explained shortly). They are still a relatively unchampioned band however, which is a massive shame, for if their debut LP Whet is anything to go by, these guys are a force to be reckoned with.

There is no doubt that Whet showcases a sound that is steeped in the late 80's to the early 90s - heavily distorted drudging guitars, echoed vocals, sharp sparks of noise - everyone of that era, from Kim Gordon to J Mascis to Kevin Shields, have had their playbooks scrutinised, with Broken Water using it all to their own nefarious means. Opener 'Say What's On Your Mind' opens with a white noise blaze before settling down into a Dinosaur Jr wail of guitar - even guitarist Jon's voice has the affected tones of J Mascis, which is in fuller effect in 'Memory'. Kanako is the mainstay vocals wise here though, and second track 'Hear' has a slower grind to its pulse, the echoey chamber of the guitar slowing things right down, before amping up in a Raveonettes circa Whip It On scrawl. The vocals evoke Corin Tucker, a bit of grrl riot to go with your grungey squall. Elsewhere on the album, 'Web' has a more lo-fi styling a la Vivian Girls, yet with a sunnier disposition (a la Best Coast?), whilst 'Kamilche House' drawls away hazily, Kanako et al sounding like a disaffected Sub Pop cast off (in a very good way). Therefore experimentation is very much the key here style-wise, yet is all firmly entrenched in pre-Seattle explosion era, and yet somehow sounds both new and vintage. A constant juxtaposition that enhances the album rather than hinders it.

Overall though Whet is refreshing in its use of noise to harken back to the days when it was ceremoniusly linked to harmony. Broken Water have constructed songs that are both abrasive and sensuous, joyous and melancholy - with their eyes nailed to the floor and their hair in their eyes one minute, their instruments in a pile and a maniacal grin on their faces the next. Its nothing new per se - but it is something that is done impeccably well. Whet to be in the running for my top ten list come December - yep, its that good.

Buy it! Vinyl via Night People; Cd via Radio Is Down. The pic above is the vinyl cover sleeve.

Broken Water - Say What's On Your Mind

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