A compelling collision of feverish post-punk, grimy electro, noirish trip-hop, unsettling hip hop beats and orchestral flourishes, London-based art collectiveBreton’s debut LP, Other People’s Problems, will be released April 3 on FatCat Records. Intriguing, atmospheric and darkly exhilarating, the album is a supremely confident statement from one of Britain’s most engaging and intriguing new bands.
Named after the father of surrealism Andre Breton, Breton the band was born out of the squat party scene and mastermind Roman Rappak’s formative musical experiences of post-Communist Poland’s pirate cassette kiosks where compilations of Portishead, NWA, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Michael Jackson were the norm. Influenced by such cinematic heroes as Jonathan Glazer, Mike Leigh and Chris Cunningham Breton initially formed in 2010 as a filmmaking collective but after they couldn’t find easily accessible places to show their films they began to add elements of tightly synched soundscapes and live performance which quickly led to them being encouraged to release their accompanying soundtracks. As they transitioned into a full fledged band they quickly found their musical identity. Their debut LP is the culmination of several years of experimentation, writing and forging an alluring sound.
Other People’s Problems is an incredibly infectious record that will speak to the masses as well as the musically cerebral and savvy. “Pacemaker” launches the album with a torrent of beats, processed samples, swelling strings and distorted synth that instantly shows off the band’s cinematic leanings. From there the album mashes up a dizzying amount of elements from across the genre spectrum. Current single “Edward the Confessor” is a slab of twitchy electro with a harp-filled breakdown, ”Two Years” slows the bpms way down for some sultry and emotional trip-hop while“Wood and Plastic” and “Jostle” explore the band’s more guitar-centric side; the latter sounding like a tropical dance party. “Ghost Notes” and ”Oxides” are propelled by hard-hitting hip hop beats and some seriously dirty bass synth action while “Interference” combines blasts of horns, bursts of strings and pounding percussion for a song that is part electro jam, part indie rock anthem. The album comes to a stirring finale with the “The Commission,” which features the sounds of broken glass, mechanical beats and spacey UK dubstep.
The eleven tracks of the album were fashioned from field recordings. Rappak obsessively records anything that attracts his attention – a building being demolished, a chance conversation, keys opening doors, the hypnotic motion of a New York subway car – and around these incidental sounds songs are created and a story is formed. His process of automatic writing gives the songs their randomness and complex, dark layers of twisted beauty. Each listen divulges a little more – be it footsteps on a deserted hospital corridor or the ramblings of a beat poet on acid or the songs of prayer in a Belgian mosque. It’s about liberating the songs to take on a life of their own – Breton’s musical interpretation of the surrealist game “The Exquisite Corpse.”
The album was conceived at the band’s creative HQ The Lab, a converted bank turned hub in south London where the five members (Roman Rappak, Adam Ainger, Ian Patterson, Daniel McIlvennyand Ryan McClarnon) live, rehearse and make music and films. The band relocated from the dingy gray urban environs of The Lab and relocated to Sigur Ros’ idyllic studio in Reykjavik where they self produced and recorded the album amongst the 24-hour sunlight. The studio’s vintage, valved equipment and singular setting gave the record warmth and weight. Adding yet another dimension to the sound, Breton collaborated with labelmate and personal hero Hauschka on brass and strings. They sent some basic ideas to the acclaimed modernist German composer who then expanded on the sketches and recorded them with an orchestra of violinists, cellists and trumpet players to create an incredible piece of music worthy of a film score. He sent back the parts to Breton who then chopped up and sampled them into various album tracks – so the classical was redefined. These New Puritans’ Thomas Hein and UK hip hop legend Harry Love were enlisted for mixing duties on several tracks.
Breton is about audio and audio-visual autopsy; deconstructing and reconstructing popular culture. The band takes disparate elements from a variety of genres, chops them up, and uses the parts to build songs that are as moody and gripping as they are melodic. Although new to American eyes and ears, Breton has been garnering praise across the UK and Europe almost since their inception for their original music, videos, short films, and remixes. Operating under the moniker BretonLABS, the band has delivered innovative remixes for Local Natives, Tricky, Maps & Atlases, Tom Vek, Temper Trap and videos for Penguin Prison, 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Flats, as well as many a subversive video to perfectly match their own music. They have been lauded by the blogs, championed by key tastemakers at radio and raved about by the likes of The Guardian, Dazed & Confused, Clash, The Fly and NME who are currently featuring them in their “100 New Bands for 2012” issue.
Before being snatched up by FatCat, Breton were a fiercely independent DIY unit that used their artistic and technical know-how to get a series of three EPs out. The first a one-sided, hand-etched limited run of only 15 transparent ten-inch records; the second another handmade venture, a limited release of only 50 CDs which were accompanied with parts and instructions for a synthesizer; and the third, a 12” on Hemlock Recordings, the US bass music label responsible for pioneering releases by Fantastic Mr Fox, Mount Kimbie and James Blake.
Breton live is an intense, hypnotic experience as the band perform to a backdrop of their self shot films and graphics – mixed in real time by their VJ in a synergy of sound, timing, rhythm and visuals. For this collective of film makers and musicians the two mediums of visual and audio are utterly integrated and of equal importance. Breton spent 2011 touring Europe supporting Ghostpoet and opening for Tom Vek on his comeback tour and capped off the year playing to 2500 people at Trans Musicales Festival in Rennes, France. They will make their U.S. debut at the SXSW Music Festival in March.