Downport Records [Release date 01.07.15]
New York instrumental outfit Bear Success describe themselves as new post-rock band outfit. Their debut album ‘Brevira’ comes with a Colin Fangicetto’s trippy art work and suitably places the emphasis on ambient moods, shifting rhythmic textures and ever changing sounsdcapes, full of subtle dynamics.
The Post-rock label references sit well with their amorphous style, as they build intense walls of sound routed in shimmering groves and ambient pastures, at the expense of traditional tension busting solos.
Guitarist Alex Roth’s ethereal sounds could at times be mistaken for keyboards, but effectively fill the album with contrasting moods. It’s not so much shoe gazing music as brooding, restless ambient an grungy rock with fleeting, nightmarish sounds that the band find imaginative ways to circumnavigate.
The 9 track album creates a tableau of hypnotic chiming guitar lines over sparse, but insistent percussion, as the trio explore camouflaged melodies that gradually reveal themselves as the instrumental pieces evolve.
Guitarist Alex Roth loves nothing more than filling the studio with jangling notes. On ‘I Know Mexico’ the band adds an extra growled layer of distorted tones to give the piece more purchase and envelop the listener with a mix of subtly shaped distortion, punctuated by an grungy thrash. The mini musical suite is linked by Roth’s chiming notes before a gentle nudge sends the slow build to another dense wall of noise and a closing drone.
Things get very intense on ‘Alex’s Party’ with an ambient metal intro and thrashed out chords over a tightly drawn percussive pattern which reaches for the epic, while the intro to ‘Kyles’s Party’ could almost be early Jefferson Airplane.
‘Divides’ moves from a cacophonous thrash, a surmising shred over Kyle Gallagher’s feral drumming to a tension breaking drop-down. The song ebbs and flows over Jeff Morris’s rumbling bass before coming to shore in a soothing, undulating arc of guitar swells.
Bear Success revel in dynamics, always looks for an intrinsic flow of which the creative possibilities are everything. Each song is a progression of sorts, and feels like part of a greater whole. Yet they rarely go where you expect them to, as a succession of guitar lines, tempo changes, tone colours and aural avalanches all rise to the fore and then drop away again.
‘Brevira’ draws you in and then moves on again to something else that is often at odds with what has gone before, but there’s always a sense of resolution to override any repetition or musical dead-ends. And with over half of the tracks clocking in at over 7 minutes long, they give themselves plenty of room to explore different stylistic dimensions
‘I’ve Heard It Both Ways’ owes much to Brian Eno’s original soundloops, as the band applies lashing of phasing to create portentous ambient textures that never quite deliver what they promise. Instead they segue straight into the garage rock intro of ‘Five, For Three, Too’, which is full of a familiar quiet-to-loud divide, courtesy of the pulsating rhythm section.
There’s more of the same on the edgy, splendidly titled ‘Did You Hear About Pluto?…That’s Messed Up Right? with Spoon like minimalism and a mid-number break-down. It almost feels like a pause before they strike out again via an unlikely meeting of electronics, doom metal and Roth’s singular guitar sound, on a fractured piece that doesn’t quite have enough depth to convince us that there’s a genuine progression at play.
‘Brevira’ is a derivative, but promising debut that will appeal to the contemporary niche market. It remains to be seen whether the band can develop their ideas into something all of their own. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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