Brambles :: Charcoal (Serein)

Thanks to Brambles’ sensitive ear for melody, Charcoal elicits far deeper, more emotionally complex responses than many analogous modern classical works: memorable but never manipulative, profoundly contemplative instead of merely introspective, poignant without being melancholy and deeply affecting rather than just comforting.

Brambles ‘Charcoal’

[Release page] Since its re-alignment as a physical media releasing label back in 2010, Serein had until now issued only two full length albums (from Nest and Olan Mill) and whilst the four-part 2011 Seasons series of 10″ EPs were all a delight in their own ways, another album proper from the Huw Roberts’ imprint was long overdue. Gratifyingly, Charcoal could not fit more perfectly into the Serein catalogue if its life depended on it, combining elements of classic Helios, Goldmund, Nest, Deaf Center, even Hauschka, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Dustin O’Halloran into a work of modern classical music pressed together with electronic post-processing that any of the aforementioned artists would doubtless have been proud to make themselves.

Brambles is the solo project of British-born but now permanent Australian resident Mark Dawson, and Charcoal his debut release. The many hours spent composing, recording, editing and mixing at one of many pianos at “The Painted Palace” in Melbourne together with manifold and diverse alternate locations on his travels around the country proved so fruitful that what was originally planned as an EP evolved into this charming full length album.

Indeed the piano is a prominent feature of many a track on Charcoal, but there is plenty of variety here too, including field recordings and delicate acoustic treatments applied with a subtlety and grace that’s all too rare these days. The acoustic guitar and flutter of birds in the opening track “To Speak Of Solitude” recall Helios at his most pastoral, and the piano motifs early Goldmund, but as with other tracks they are also enhanced by delicate wind instrumentation. This memorable opening is ably followed by the lilting “Such Owls As You,” at which point obvious parallels to Nest or even Deaf Center are easily drawn, but like Olan Mill’s swirling Pine before it, Charcoal is also an album that unfolds in a kind of elegant slow motion. The blurry “Salt Photographs” pushes gently bowed, tidal strings and lilting guitar to the fore, and even the jazzy brushwork of the pining “In The Androgynous Dark” with its heartbreaking, descending piano keys and the moonlit fairy tale waltz of “Pink And Golden Billows” are not immune. The one mildly shocking moment present on Charcoal arrives in the form of “Deep Corridor” that begins with muted underwater bubbling and frozen crystalline resonance until a room-shaking sub-bass pulse emerges from the murky depths alongside a pitch-shifted, slowed down vocal intonation straight out of a Future Sound Of London album.

Thanks to Dawson’s sensitive ear for melody, Charcoal elicits far deeper, more emotionally complex responses than many analogous modern classical works: memorable but never manipulative, profoundly contemplative instead of merely introspective, poignant without being melancholy and deeply affecting rather than just comforting. If you only buy one modern classical album in 2012, make it this one.

Charcoal is available on Serein. [Release page | Micro-site]

TAGS: , , , ,

No Comments

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.