Breton - War Room Stories  - Cover- 2014

BRETON War Room Stories

01. Envy
02. S Four
03. Legs & Arms
04. Got Well Soon
05. Closed Category
06. National Grid
07. Search Party
08. 302 Watch Towers
09. Brothers
10. Fifteen Minutes

Gentrification can be a bitch. Especially for artists. London-based BRETON had to learn this lesson on the hard way. Their old creative home, an abandoned bank in South East London called “bretonLabs” became a victim of urban design and was demolished last year. The art collective recorded their previous material right here, including their critically acclaimed 2011 debut Other People’s Problems. A new home was finally found in Berlin, although the group took a different road then recording somewhere at Kreuzberg or other hip places. The former GDR-building Funkhaus became the new creative home town, War Room Stories marks the result of that journey.

And in some form the principle of gentrification also counts for BRETON as a band. Whoever enjoyed the experimental and electronic weirdness of the group’s debut might be surprised once the first notes of Envy hit the speakers. The catchy piece of straightened pop takes a clear step towards a cleaner and controlled direction. And yes, it sounds indeed like their fellow countrymen FOALS. It’s a way more obvious and focussed and way less cryptic as in on Other People’s Problems. War Room Stories feels more organic and seems to be clearly influenced by the band’s live experience. Another important aspect you notice from early on is the 44-piece strong Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra. The real strings give tracks like the clicking and clacking S Four as well as the epic finish of Closed Category a decent symphonic character. Even a more experimental start like in Legs & Arms soon evolves into this orchestral monster at the end.

This really marks a surprising change in sound. Elements of the first album can still be found in tracks like the dark wave driven Got Well Soon. But they surely became less. But despite the straightened sound the energy of BRETON and their music is still felt. Singer Roman Rappak brings a lot of urge in his vocal, especially in the hectic tune Brothers. In the end War Room Stories will leave you with mixed feelings, especially when you love the debut. The clean production with its symphonic math-pop clearly marks a huge step for this guys. As a result the new longplayer feels way more focussed and provides a bunch of great pop moments but lacks a bit of originality. It looks a bit like BRETON are still on the move, looking for a new home and sound. They have might not arrived there yet but on the other side they still got plenty of time.

BRETON‘s sophomore album ‘War Room Stories’ detaches the experimental moments of the debut and opens itself to a cleaner and more symphonic side.

NBHAP Rating: 3/5