The 21st Century has certainly produced its fair share of males who favour the theatrical side of music. The danger is they can fall in to trap of self-parody and sometimes you do wonder whether the theatre is the bigger calling than the music. There are no such worries about Benjamin Schurr AKA Br’er. He is certainly a born performer but there is a real strength to this album which embraces songwriting as well as production.
Contrary talent that he is though, the record begins in the most anti-commercial way. A woozy, mournful accordion ushers in the crazed vocals of Schurr. It is, however, a track which makes you stand to attention whether you like it or not. ‘Milk Of Kindness’ takes a slightly vaudevilian route and serves as a neat introduction to ‘You Go, We’ll Stay Here’, here Schurr truly extends the richness and passion in his voice for the first time; the crunching beats adding a modern touch to this torch song.
The excellent form is maintained through the middle of the album. ‘Sea Of Doubt’ balances military percussion with an eerie sea shanty style melody whilst ‘The Butcher’ strips the arrangements back even further so it’s basically just Br’er and a harp. The effect on both is quite remarkable; slightly queasy yet haunting and beautiful all at once. If the album has its flaws it’s in the second half where his confidence with the avant garde gets the better of him. His cries of “like a riding crop across my back I want you” against industrial noise (from ‘Safeword’) is certainly arresting but it’s unlikely to be a moment that fans will look forward to hearing again.
Not that his voice needs much embellishment, Br’er is also an expert arranger as he cleverly combines old and new instruments together. Whisper it quietly but he’s not far removed from a female version of Björk really.