According to his bio, James Brewster is a “sound-explorer”, whose interests include dense digital processing, spontaneous collaboration and cryptically evocative lyrics amongst others. This may sound a little pretentious but it’s also accurate. Yet above all, Brewster is a musician and a fine one too, as he evidenced on past releases under the name of Mole Harness. This first record using own name is arguably his most melodic.
Brewster enlists a great variety of vocal talent throughout the record. Men Diamler contributes his weighty Brendan Perry-isms on the grand ‘Vel Kvonen’, whilst the considerably sweeter tones of Albanian opera singer Egzona Gervalla circle around the twinkling, hypnotic ‘Vraikan Sundan’. ‘Landfall’ is heavy with field recordings and seems to meander rather aimlessly until Brewster’s own haunted turn in front of the mic creates a stunning counterpoint.
This track segues in to the beginning of the second “half”, which is noticeably more tuneful than the first. For ‘Crumbling Spires’, Brewster’s narration combines brilliantly with Daniel Goody’s singing; its rustic hip-hop feel is reminiscent of Hood at their best. ‘Wingbeat Fission’ is to be released as a single and it seems to be the obvious choice given its summery, jangly Epic45-style atmosphere and the mesmeric harmonies for the superb, extended chorus.
With nods to cosmopolitan influences, Brewster has expanded his oeuvre outside the ambient/electronica genre still further. Yet the record also serves to prove that Brewster is now just as concerned with creating great songs as much as he is to satisfy his thirst for experimentalism.
Epic45, Hood, Dead Can Dance