Friday, November 2, 2007
Our Brother The Native is:
John Michael Foss (guitar, drums/percussion, piano, bass)
Joshua Bertram (guitar, bowed banjo, sounds/samples, synth, vocals )
Chaz Knapp (piano, guitar, bass)
They are three young Americans (two aged 17, one 19) who write shockingly beautiful music. The ever-exciting Fat-Cat Records is responsible for discovering OBTN towards the end of 2005.
Their debut album "Tooth & Claw" was formed of thrilling, beautifully jumbled gushes of ideas and emotions – its campfire clap-alongs, skewed vocals, and use of circuit-bent children’s toys saw John, Josh & Chaz coming on like the kid brothers of Animal Collective or CocoRosie.
Following on from that release, yet marking a major shift and forming very much its own space, their new album Make Amends, For We Are Merely Vessels is a bold and expansive record that ebbs and flows with huge power and considerable skill.
The eight songs here clock in at between six and fourteen minutes each and take their cues more from expansive post-rock / white noise rather than any freaked folk scene. It was self-recorded in Josh’s dimly-lit Michigan basement between May – December 2006.
Where the previous album was all jagged / ruptured songcraft, ‘Make Amends…’ is a much more fluid, immersive affair, a dense weave of layered (and partially buried) sounds worth a deliberate and slow building grasp of dynamics. Devoid of regular verse / chorus structuring, its songs sprawl out and unfurl with their own particular logic, mixing rich drones and flickering detail with brief but swollen, almost anthemic bursts of emotion, and the simmering threat of explosion. At different points it recalls the likes of Sigur Rós, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Stars Of The Lid, Popol Vuh, or Black Dice circa ‘Beaches & Canyons’.
Whilst ‘Tooth and Claw’ was recorded and pieced together through internet to-ing and fro-ing, before Josh had even met Chaz and John Michael, let alone played any shows, ‘Make Amends’ was carefully planned out. Before recording, the band had been playing these songs together live for over a year, allowing them to change shape and grow from show to show (a process that’s ongoing), and had a good idea of how they wanted them to sound on record.
Brilliantly controlled and hugely ambitious for a group so young, ‘Make Amends..’ is a deep and powerful album that deserves your attention.
***About the video below - 'My Daughter the Sun' (Pappa Bones track):
"Captured live on February 11th 2006, on the second day of the FatCat 'Open Circuit' festival at Kunstencentrun BELGIE in Hasselt, Belgium. This show was notable as being the first time Our Brother The Native had ever played together. Having previously collaborated by sending files over e-mail, the three had in fact only all met a couple of days before the show, and only had a couple of hours to practise. Nevertheless, they sounded just great and went down a storm."