15th June 2015 – shelsmusic/I.Corrupt.Records
After the critical success of their 2010 debut EP Black Ice, Texan trio Brother/Ghost endured a bit of a rough ride. Member changes necessitated turning down some great opportunities for the young group, and a two-year hiatus left us wondering if they’d end up as one of those small but perfectly formed one-off gems.
But adversity is character building, and there’s character aplenty in follow-up LP Buried. With a sept of succinctly-titled songs, Brother/Ghost inject their post-rock platform with character and a raft of influences, touching on acts as varied as Slint, Cursive and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to Nick Cave, Radiohead and The Doors.
Opener “Satan” starts as if waking from a dream; delicate strings meander over an insistent background hum, before an almighty crash slaps you awake. It’s effective stuff; the familiar tropes of the genre meshing with less well-trodden techniques to introduce an album that takes pride in doing things a little differently.
Subtle, stripped back and reserved, Buried plays with only a few toys from the box at a time. “Causeway” - “a sad song in a major key”, as a rather self-aware lyric states – is a prime example. The opening features only slow tempo-keeping drums, the occasional strummed guitar chord, and the strangely compelling main vocal line. Other passages utilise just the bright guitar, and even when it does break into something fuller, you can pick out every facet with crystal clarity, and it’s all the more effective for it.
The vocals do require special mention: there are two different voices, often dripping with melancholy. Each feels right at home with the others, and whilst one leads for the most part, the others – most notably the voice on “Satan” – hold up on their own as well. None are what you’d call stunning, but it’s the ordinary, everyday quality of them that adds weight to the power of each of the songs in turn.
Brother/Ghost save their true masterstroke for last, and it’s almost a shame that it’s ‘buried’ at the end of the record. Starkly different from the previous six tracks, its positioning is really a subtle bit of genius: so catchy is it that you’ll find yourself reaching for the replay button before it’s even finished. Whilst the rest of the album is fantastic, it’s not traditionally hooky – but “Blackdog” is a different beast; its wandering bass-line immediately stands out, worming its way into your ear, caressing the bittersweet, crooning vocals and delicate synths that accompany it.
Each of the seven songs has its own identity in this way, and it’s for this perhaps that Buried is so truly accomplished. Brother/Ghost have some serious writing chops between them, and there’s surely something here for everyone, whether it’s the droning groove of “Pendulum“, the driving, bass-driven “Harpies” or the wistful “Cripple“. If you’re looking for something a bit deep, this one’s going to be for you.