We Know About the Need is the debut album from Bracken, the shrouded-in-mystery solo venture of Chris Adams (otherwise voice and co-sound designer of Leeds legends Hood). It's a blunt introduction, with the first track picking up as if mid-song: the head-nodding beat and aqueous guitar plucks of 'Of Athroll Slains' sounding like some lost instrumental transmission from the Wu's 36 Chambers picked up by CB radio and rebroadcast here. Bloops, beeps and squelches of strings swirl about, as Chris' voice comes through sounding wonderfully wrecked and world-weary. The heavy dub bass reigns supreme (here, and throughout We Know) as an orchestra of myriad sounds plays, each holding the rest together like the disparate million moving parts of city life.
Second song and lead single 'Heathens' is a boldly ambitious burst of intricately woven sound. Opening with a loosed breath and an ethereal voice running through its atmospheric pulse, the track soon catches melody and bounces down a hallway of deep dub bump. The vocals grab onto their own reverb and ride (stuttering a la Prefuse 73's cut-ups), as an errant horn squeals and the guitar notes are chopped and coiled into a melody that would recall Phoenix's 'Too Young' if it wasn't for the profoundly heavy space they occupy. 'Fight or Flight' is a gorgeous six-minute exercise in pacing—a musique concrète masterpiece carved out of guitar, organ, cello and unrecognizeables. The organic chemistry of the Books and the spaciousness of Boards of Canada both come to mind, but Bracken burrows deeper than the former and plays a million times warmer than the latter. Chris' ghostly call pushes up against the ceiling of sound, nearly cracking under the weight, singing beauty and heartache with tape effects catching notes and ringing them ad infinitum.
We Know About the Need is full of songs like this, Bracken walking the rarely tread line between electronic and organic, the complex arrangements playing full and easy with every sound in its right place. On 'Safe Safe Safe,' rolling keys anchor the vocals as they flit back and forth in the speakers. Here the vocals sound like an entire choir, while on the wordless 'Music for Adverts,' his emanations are bent and stretched over some grand hollow space to mimic a school of monks. 'Evil Teeth' is another minor masterwork, this one meticulously crafted from absolute chaos. Freewheeling drum solos careen down a tall hall made up of screeching strings, gnashing metallic teeth, insect-like droning and a single sustained strand of cello. At the other end of the tunnel, 'Four Thousand Style' is breathes easy and allows Chris' nearly naked voice to carry the weight. Elsewhere field recordings meet piano, clarinet and voice to unexpectedly serene effect ('Many Horses'), and a combination of slow-moving beats, mounting 'Ooh's, 808-worthy bass thump and uncut guitar creates the kind of heaviness that stays for weeks (the epic closer 'Back on the Calder Line').
And as smart as all of this sounds, Bracken's lasting beauty comes from how emotive the music is. We Know About the Need is both a venture forward into the unknown and a heavy axe into the gut of something far too human and familiar. And as such, the album is a perfect addition to the Anticon oeuvre.
* immediate free MP3 download for all vinyl orders of this release.