Mt. Chimaera by Brasstronaut

Every once in a while something comes along that completely and totally takes you by surprise. For me, this was Mt. Chimaera, the full length debut from Brasstronaut. I am not quite sure why, but for some reason I was expecting them to sound completely different than they do -- which is funny in retrospect, as their name is a perfect indication of their sound. The Vancouver band is fronted by Edo Van Breemen on keyboards & vocals and he is joined by a roster of great musicians playing a wide range of instruments: Bryan Davies (trumpet/flugelhorn/glockenspiel), John Walsh (bass/guitar), Brennan Saul (percussion), Tariq Hussain (lap steel/electric guitar), & Sam Davidson (clarinet/EWI); the EWI being a great and underused instrument which looks like a Space Clarinet. Their website points out that while all play in a number of other projects, they are quick to profess that this is their one and only golden egg. And with the recent inclusion of the album on the Polaris Prize long list, it looks like "golden egg" may be an apt metaphor.

The album starts out with "Slow Knots", which gives you a good idea of how the next 40 minutes are going to go. Cinematic, atmospheric, haunting and intense are all words that could describe the band, and they manage to exemplify all of those adjectives in this break-up song (Do you really think that I betrayed you / honey don't you know that I'm too dumb for that / you kept a list of all those bad nights / and we both know it got too long). "Hands Behind" shows off the bands jazz influence and weaves trumpet with acoustic and slide guitars together seamlessly. That leads in to "Lo Hi Hopes" which is more of a rocking, upbeat track, yet still finds time for woodwind solos, and almost grinds to a halt for the breakdown, before exploding again at the end. The energy isn't let up with the piano driven "Six toes", a song that is all over the map, but never in a sloppy way.
"Hearts Trompet" is my favourite track off the album, and quite possibly one of my favourite songs of the year thus far. It starts out with a laid back bass line and slowly adds things like horns and strings until it hits the midway point, and then just launches into a breathtaking symphonic climax, before stopping almost dead in its tracks, trickling it's way into "Ravan", which takes the opposite approach, as it slowly fades to a gentle ending. "Same Same" is given an ethereal quality with the echoing vocals and dramatic horns and well placed flourishes of guitar. The album draws to a close with the epic eight minute "Insects", the darkest track on the album, which also drips with emotion. This single song does more than I have heard some bands do in an entire album, flowing perfectly through what could almost be called separate movements within the song, encapsulating the band almost perfectly.

With the amount of stuff going on, it would be easy for a band like Brasstronaut to collapse under its own weight into a complete mess, but it a s testament to the musical abilities to all involved that it comes together as perfectly as it does. The more I listen to this album, the more it grows on me, and the less doubt I have that it will make it on to my "best of" list this year.

Download Lo Hi Hopes

Download Hearts Trompet

Download Same Same

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