In these days of uncertainty the music fans look once more toward its (often) unsung DIY heroes, working away(often) behind the scenes on their label, fanzine, band or maybe all three. The chaps behind Cardiff imprint Barely regal records should be applauded in the first instance for their cracking collection of local bands and for their musical visions that see them not only strive to work on their own musical adventures in the shape of Among Brothers, The Good Time Boys, and their solo projects but also to give a helping hand to those around them whether that’s through gigs or their new release. It’s this genuine community aspect that is heartwarming in a music scene often drowning in incestuousness and one up man ship.
Among Brothers the group made up of Barely Regal head honchos Mattew Fidler (Bass, Vocals) and Isaac Jones (Guitar, Percussion) and joined by Adam Woodward (Drums, Vocals) Jonathan Rees (Keys, Vocals) Jess Rochman (Violin, Vocals) and lead vocalist and keyboardist Alexander Comana release the ‘Home EP’ their first fully formed release and the second release from their fledgling local imprint. Among Brothers have already been lauded by the BBC locally and have received almost universal approval on the local scene but does this first release warrant this attention?
The first thing that hits you about Home is its sheer scale and ambition, building up a solid live reputation for instrumental experimentation woven with glitchy electro bleeps and imbued with honest to goodness strings, and embellished by swooping vocals that range from desolate and singular to communal and chanting. It’s an impressively grand concoction that’s redolent of elements of the electro pop catalogue of The Postal Service, and the post rock soundscapes of early Sigur Ros, Efterklang and even touches of the recent Foals album in its emotional and vocal brevity.
At it’s best ‘Home’ is simply delightful take standout ‘Montogolfier’ that’s twitching scratching instrumentation loops and brothers in arms themes are given voice by a gloriously interlinked six pronged vocal harmonies, and soaring waves of twinkling percussion led by sighing violin lines. And then before two minutes its over too soon.
The quality continues on ‘My Head is a Vessel’ whilst lead vocalist Alex’s clipped emo/hardcore delivery is sometimes off putting at times throughout the EP given space to grow and breath it reveals a delightful range that shines a light on a melancholic inner dialogue that bursts from everyday emotion swooping toward a genuinely life affirming communality, above a backdrop of clicking keyboards, crashing guitars, onomatopoeic keyboard lines, and twinkling xylophones.
However ‘Bare Teeth’ shows up Among Brothers present shortcomings, when left alone and isolated without his fellow brothers backing harmonies Alex’s delivery here sounds too brittle and a little whiny to hold the entire edifice thus these vocal habits undermine the sheer quality of these widescreen soundscapes, that build from piano line toward an ambitious framework.’Closer Great Famine Family’ returns to the themes and sound of ‘Montgolfier’ and live favourite ‘Sam, Isah and the wolf’ and highlights the quality of Among Brothers work when they join in not only instrumental union but vocal communality however at seven minutes long and sounding like three or four pieces merged together even committed listeners will feel a little drained and lacking in interest after this late night sprawl through heartbreak, but in its final minute the playful keyboard lines and cold acapella vocal chorus’ it redeems itself.
The five tracks enclosed in Among Brothers debut Home Ep shows their vast potential and their clear quality of their communal sound, when they get it right they sound like one of the most excitingly ambitious bands in the local area right now. However singular vocal frailties sometimes in thrall to American convention and a reliance on obvious tricks can sound a little contrived. But at its best and beyond these drawbacks and given this is their first release Among Brothers exhibits the scale of ambition and a shuddering range of instrumental epiphanies that houses their throbbing hearts, that vividly depicts why these Brothers are ones to watch.