A Closer Listen.
Mark Dawson’s debut as Brambles is packed with
mystery and buoyed by austerity. It’s not common to hear an album whose
source instruments can confound and comfort at the same time. The
intellectual in us will sometimes have a hard time figuring out what
instrument is what, but inevitably the reptile brain will rejoice
The opening pair of tracks sets a stage for sombre and wintery
feelings. “Such Owls As You” utilizes a peaceful piano motif and the
softest accents of saxophone this side of twilight. One can draw a lot
of connecting points to the label’s flagship duo Nest who similarly can
make anything one looks at rich with importance. Mysterious winds or
sirens occasionally drift in and out of focus, sounding entirely organic
and a bit haunting. Throughout we hear field recordings like the
fluttering of wings coupled with dreamy interpretations of classical
“In The Androgynous Dark” delivers a chilling romanticism that is at
the heart of the Brambles sound. It’s the first instance of any
percussion, a hushed brushing echoing into the undergrowth, and it’s
punctuated by a melody that sounds as if it’s being played on a piano
made of ice. Clarinet, strings and guitar make for a rich and soft
pillow of sound, one that you might rest your head upon when the
bittersweet truths in life consume the mind.
Charcoal is just warming up, however. “Salt Photographs” is
the album’s fulcrum at nearly seven minutes, effortlessly changing from a
string quartet sounding one shade shy of paranoid to an optimistic
Peter Broderick shuffle. There is a rich soundtrack quality to this
album, but not in “it’s made for a movie” kind of way. This is a
soundtrack that begs a movie to be made in your mind. Most artists do
great things when they simply respond to their own life. It feels like a
miracle to us, the folks who have no idea how someone can get to this
place where art is manifesting so clearly, so wonderfully.
When I listen to Brambles I am hearing an artist who is pouring his
life into his music. He obviously has spent hours crafting this work and
probably doesn’t care deeply about being recognized for it. This is the
hallmark of the Serein label. Through each of its major releases (this
being the third) the artists’ music has been a creation of stark
necessity. Each composition calls for certain instruments all the while
having a clarity of expression. A fellow left to his own thoughts for
hours hunched over a piano in a communal artist house for months could
come up with such a performance, as Dawson did at the Painted Palace in
Melbourne where most of this album was recorded. It has been said that
this is a night time album, and it was the most fragile of hours when
Brambles likely broke through and solidified his melodies and major
compositional cornerstones. But I hear a poignant album that can grace
our most quiet of times or punctuate a wild event with a knowing caress.
This is delicate music which, like a flower, only lasts for so long but
is built upon a foundation of a need to live well and live beautifully.
Bravo. May you find your bee.