Discovered online in late 2005, Our Brother The Native's debut album, 'Tooth and Claw', was released in July 2006, and followed by the texturally expansive, 'Make Amends, For We Are Merely Vessels' (February 2008), and an EP, 'Parting Marrows' (October 2008). Easily their strongest work to date, the band's third full-length, 'Sacred Psalms', sees them pushing into further fresh territory, extending previous gains whilst retaining a sense of the band's originality. Alongside some stunning recent live shows, it bears witness to OBTN's rapid, continuing growth and comprises a very bold and ambitious musical vision.
Following the recent departure of John Michael Foss, the line-up for 'Sacred Psalms' comprised founder members Josh Bertram (vocals, guitar, saxophone, piano, banjo, organ, synth, drums / percussion, programming / samples / noise) and Chaz Knapp (vocals, guitar, banjo), aided by Kevin McKay (whose violin graces "Someday" and "Dusk"). Now in their fourth year as a band, they remain at college, collaborating across states and eagerly learning new instruments. With Josh (aged 19) in Michigan and Chaz (20) in California, their creative process has been a mixture of working individually in isolation, sending material and ideas back and forth across the internet, and occasionally coming together to rehearse, record and tour.
Where 'Tooth and Claw' was a thrilling, jumbled outpouring of ruptured songcraft (its campfire clap-alongs, skewed vocals, and circuit-bent instruments coming on like the kid brothers of Animal Collective or CocoRosie), 'Make Amends...' dug territory closer to Sigur Ros, Godspeed..., or Black Dice circa 'Beaches and Canyons' - a fluid and immersive, slow-building weave mixing rich drones and flickering detail with brief, almost anthemic emotional outbursts and the simmering threat of explosion. Recorded, produced and mixed by Josh in his basement studio between January and August 2008, 'Sacred Psalms' draws on elements of both previous albums, whilst extending their instrumental range and the sheer depth and quality of their recordings. Inspired by a love of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Javanese Gamelan music (sampled fragments of which drift through the mix), and with a vast array of sounds and ideas flowing about, this is both their most eclectic release to date and a fully coherent attempt to culminate and draw on everything good the band had previously committed. There are elongated pieces which ebb and flow with a great depth and detail, and somewhat more concise and immediate verse/chorus-based songs. From the moody, post-industrial ambience of 'Dusk' or 'Endless Winter' to the joyous steel-pan tropicalism of 'All Grown', to 'Child Banter's barbed blasts of punk aggression, it's adventurously varied and highly accomplished. Allowed to slowly form, most of the songs went through months of tweaking, with fresh detail added as and when new sounds or instruments were discovered. Perhaps the most marked changes from previous efforts lie in the heavily stacked drums and percussion (Josh having a very different, denser style to former percussionist John Michael) and also in Josh's vocals, now sung in his natural register, a neat foil to Chaz's lower tones.
Often guided by simple, plaintive melodies on guitar or piano, over an intricate textural bed of layered percussion (tinkling / clanging metal, pattering drums, tribal grooves) and a rich, ghostly drift of rippling/shimmering tones and drones, there's simultaneously a sense vaporousness in its slowly-emerging / accumulating nature, and of solidity imbued by the presence of loosely-anchoring rhythms.
Tangentially connected to the burgeoning freak folk and new noise communities, but perhaps closer to individualists such as High Places or Bird Show, 'Sacred Psalms' is a great new album by a band who - amidst an ocean of derivitive / generic copyists - really are finding their own voices and doing something a little bit different. We believe they fully deserve your attention.
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