Review Summary: A well oiled progressive math rock machine.
Brontide are something of a progressive math rock supergroup – just take a glance at their credentials. William Bowerman boasts an impressive CV which includes drumming both live and in studio for La Roux and Marina and the Diamonds. Nathan Fairweather of Rolo Tomassi fame takes charge of bass duties, and guitar teaching virtuoso Tim Hancock fulfills both lead and rhythm roles. Although the supergroup tag is perhaps a dangerous one, there is no disparity between expertise levels and end product here – a trap which many seasoned musicians fall into with rushed releases. The band’s undeniable chemistry sees to that, as they have had ample time to gel and grow together since their inception as a side project in 2009. Brontide combine all the mathy whimsy of Adebisi Shank and experiment within a progressive framework – sounding something like a winsome Russian Circles.
A lot of Brontide’s success lies in their ability to sound much, much bigger than the sum of their parts. Just how loud and complex can a three piece outfit really sound? Step forward, the humble looper pedal. Whilst having three guitarists does allow a band to explode more readily out of the blocks, Tim Hancock’s patient build ups turn into satisfyingly dense cacophonies once given a dose or two of measured brilliance. Sublime opener “Matador” stacks no less than five guitar parts on top of one another in less than two minutes, whilst the mid section of album highlight “Arioso” benefits hugely from the frantic tapping which kicks back in just as the song really begins to let loose. This reliance on looping may be a concern for some when transitioned to the stage – but their tight, energetic live performances comfortably put any such worries to bed.
As is commonplace with progressive rock of every kind, unconventional song structures are utilised throughout, adding a welcome element of unpredictability to Sans Souci
. Crescendos which are typically deployed at a song’s finale instead occur throughout, and when “Arioso” explodes halfway through, the final three minutes instead serve as a cooling down period, allowing the energy of the song to slowly recede.
Both Bowerman and Fairweather are largely content to ebb and flow with the energy levels set by Hancock, though this doesn’t mean that their contributions are overshadowed. Just take the atmospheric cymbal work which opens “Bespoke” and the lengthy tirade on “Limehouse Ink,” or the wholesome bassline on the title track as examples. Sans Souci
is as ambitious and varied as it is successful, and with a new release due imminently it might just be time you checked them out.