Release Date: Feb 11, 2014
Record label: Believe
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, International
Having already offered up a few addictive singles, London band Breton have – to our great satisfaction – released their second full-length collection, a lovely album called War Room Stories. Arriving after last year's partly hip-hop-inspired EP, Force of Habit, the album is a great explosion of sound, dripping with influences that range from film soundtracks, to dark urban attitude and indie-dance energy. Surprisingly, these guys have somehow managed to evade notoriety in the UK, being rather big elsewhere – the largest bastion of fandom being France.
Never ones to shy away from a spot of genre-bending, London five-piece Breton stay true to past form here. War Room Stories encapsulates art rock, tropical pop and various forms of electronica on a varied yet focused set that sounds as though it's not fallen prey to the usual second-album jitters. They've moved away from the hip-hop influences that shone through on 2012's Other People's Problems, letting strings and synthesisers take centre-stage instead.
Although War Room Stories is just the second LP by London-based indie collective Breton, the band has numerous EPs and collaborations, both audio and visual, to their credit. When they originally set up their BretonLABS studio in a South East London warehouse, their modus operandi was to become a truly collaborative, D.I.Y., multi-media arts machine with each member contributing in a variety of ways to the grand vision of what could be considered a company as much as a band. Their debut LP, 2012's Other People's Problems, was a jagged pastiche of urban London stitched together with manipulated found sounds and blending elements of dubstep, hip-hop, electronica, and indie rock.
Thanks to their current inverse status, in both popularity and innovation, it seems that more and more 'indie' records have been picking up dance music’s mannerisms – while Breton’s sound in 2012 called to mind Tom Vek and few others, their relatively unchanged sound today sets off a chain-reaction of indietronica associations, from Everything Everything and Two Door Cinema Club to Foals’ Holy Fire and recent James Blake. Resolutely electronic but retaining an 'indie' sensibility, faintly industrial, melancholic; Other People’s Problems was everything you’d hoped Kele Okerree’s solo exploits might have been - the tragic romance and earworm hooks of early Bloc Party transposed into a dance-centric setting. At the time, an awful lot was made of their being a 'multimedia collective' from 'south London' who 'squatted' in an 'abandoned bank' – a great press release has the power to drown a great record.
Stationed in an East Berlin studio – away from ‘Bretonlabs’ – crafted from the shell of a communist radio station from the 1950s, Breton find themselves on the cusp of releasing their second LP, War Room Stories. Their first, Other People’s Problems, wowed many an onlooker, due to the crisp melding of multimedia projects, experimental artronica and straight-up indie rock, and this follow-on is set to turn more heads. It’s no major detraction from the sound they first peddled, but more an advancement of certain elements – a subtle evolution as opposed to resolute revolution.
London is changing, and changing fast. Last summer, the bulldozers rolled in on an abandoned NatWest bank in London’s Elephant And Castle, razing the area for a new block of luxury flats. But this bank wasn’t totally abandoned. Deep in its belly lay BretonLABS, a legal squat space that acted as studio, factory, rehearsal space and living quarters for the band Breton.
Remember those kids at school? The ones in science that would double acid quantities in practicals and throw flammable stuff into flames just for the shits and giggles? They’re kind of like Breton; full-out experimentalists with a youthful charm, meshing all kinds of stuff together to see what reacts/fizzes/blows the place up. After all, they did previously work under the art-collective moniker of Breton Labs.Physics-wise, their music’s also buzzing with an electrical energy. Their last album – 2012’s ‘Other People’s Problems’ – contained the aptly named ‘Electrician’ and ‘Pacemaker’; pounding tunes frothing at the metaphorical mouth with bass.