Speaking of Canadian music, it is hard not to notice how underestimated it has been in the past. We often forget the country of the maple leaf has not only given us some major legends of singer-songwriting, such as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell, but is also a serious part of the indie business today. It might be high time to let go the Bryan Adams’ joke, as Vancouver is the hometown of a band that might have just released the album of the year.
Brasstronaut started out sometime around 2005 as a duet: Edo Van Breemen [piano, vocals] and Bryan Davis [trumpet]. The list of members grew and changed in time, to finally reach its present shape, with additional Toriq Hussein and John Walsh respectively on guitars and bass, drummer Brennan Saul and – last but not least – Sam Davidson responsible for the clarinet. From the very first recordings on their EP Old World Lies, it was obvious the Vancouver six-piece aimed for something different and did not really fit any particular genre. Soon they have created their own little universe of sound, where experimental pop flirted shamelessly with jazz and this misalliance did not feel wrong. The eclectic approach has become their signature, at first as a patchwork-like mixture of different ideas and styles as heard on the critically acclaimed Mt. Chimaera. The charm of imperfection surrounded huge potential with variety of possibilities for the future. Now, two years later, we witness promises becoming fulfilled and what once appeared as an intriguing creature transforms into a complex, multidimensional excellence.
The beauty of Mean Sun unfolds extremely slowly, allowing to appreciate every detail of the incredibly rich yet subtle arrangements. It might not be love at first sight, but there is something seriously addicting in those synth driven melodies carried by the vibrant beat right from the very beginning of the opening track. In spite of many layers, the sound remains spacious and is never overwhelmed by tapestry of the ideas. Dreamy Moonwalker stretches its blurry almost watery mood all over the place, while Falklands accelerate and sharpen repetitively. On the other side stands Mean Sun’s title track – synthetic heaviness taken underwater, with a feeling of liquid stickiness and solitude. The tracklist is practically faultless with two truly brilliant songs: my personal favorite, hypnotizing Hymn for Huxley and the very last, very beautiful seven minutes of the record – Mixtape.
It has only been two years since the release of the debut album and the diversity is still Brasstronaut’s strongest feature. But clearly not the only one. In a really short period of time they managed to achieve the equilibrium between heterogeneous influences and sophisticated cohesion. Sustaining this balance is a continuous process requiring maturity and wisdom, both of which Edo & co. seem to have plenty of. We will see what the future brings. As for now, even though it is only June, Mean Sun seems to be one of the best records released this year: luminous, flawless and coherent.
PS. And here’s a little acoustic something: