As summer turns to autumn there’s a certain melancholia in the air. It’s often a time for introspection, for remembering the (relative) warmth of the season gone by; while at the same time looking forward to the beauty of what is to come. The colours that arrive as leaves gradually lose their sense of purpose. It is a bittersweet time, which is the sort of feeling I get when I listen to this new release from Broken DC, a self proclaimed ‘post rock’ trio founded in London in 2012.
As the latest release from God Unknown Records, it becomes part of a select yet diverse series of albums; all of which follow their own distinct paths. On the one hand Cavalier Song was for the most part ambient and elegiac, while Henge tore a new hole in the noise rock firmament; this Broken DC album finds itself somewhere in between. This is wholly appropriate for a release whose title refers to the, often invisible, moulding placed on the edge two conjoining panes of glass. There is a fragility to the music found here, a translucence that invites you to peer deep into it…what you get back may be your own reflection, projection or a fresh perspective.
This is one of those albums that initially sounds to be quite light and and unchallenging. Listen to it a few times though and you begin peel back the layers of meaning you gradually see the depth to this album; like looking into glass the perspective is as profound as you want it to be. This is an album to sit with and consider in all its fragility and mystery. Going back to the autumnal analogy it feels there is a warmth to these songs, but that this is in some sense residual as a bleaker and more stark landscape begins to emerge. This, I guess, it the translucence that I was referring to earlier.
Going through this Broken DC album it is difficult to say which tracks I prefer, because this release is so consistent throughout from the misty intro of ‘White Sheet’ to the opaque beauty of ‘Always is Now’. Nevertheless, certain tracks do seem to have stayed with me more significantly than others. I absolutely adore ‘Namer of Clouds’ with its gentle acoustic guitar coda and lilting bass line, it is a track that cajoles and lulls in equal measure, and reminds me of one of my favourite albums of the year thus far from Heron Oblivion. I really like the way that the music builds up to a crescendo then just melts away at the end. ‘Phase In/ A Still River Flows’ is the longest on the album and is, in many ways, typical of what is on offer here. It begins with layers of different sound competing for our attention before settling into a beautifully intoned melody, inviting us to tune in amidst the cacophony of what is around us. It is at once uplifting and dense, inviting us to sift through the layers of sound.
If I were to choose one track though, it would be ‘Forever Blue’ which is a total heartbreaker of a song. As someone who has on occasion been taken to the edge of tears at a Teeth of the Sea gig principally because of the sound Sam Barton’s trumpet, it’s inclusion here is utterly moving and adds something to the album that for me is very profound and emotive. Final track, ‘Always Is Now’ personifies the fragility of this album, it is precise without being sterile; moving without being sentimental; and powerful without being overbearing. It is, for me, a great example of how this album is some how kept in a form of stasis created by the different forces that it channels: light and dark; opacity and transparency; melody and dissonance…there are many more
For me, then, this Broken DC album is an exercise in balance and reflection. It allows for personal introspection and for the listener to find their own equilibrium in listening to it. In this sense it is an album that demands to be listened to because it is one that will take you places, liminal places, those places where change occurs. For that reason it is an album for all times of the year, but as the chill of autumn begins to bite it seems particularly appropriate.
‘Astragal’ is released on 7th October on God Unknown Records.
You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.