Bradien: Linden

bRUNA: And It Matters To Me To See You Smiling

A wonderful surprise, Barcelona three-piece Bradien (Balbini, Dave Harris, and leader Matias Rossi) charms with a half-hour, debut full-length filled with buoyant pop songs where horns, glockenspiels, and melodica carve joyous paths through ‘50s-influenced settings grounded by guitar (acoustic and electric), drums, and bass. There's an electronic dimension to the band as well but, sonically speaking, Bradien favours a natural sound, with the electronic touches integrated subliminally. Each song is a compact jewel, with each one rich in arrangement and economical in delivery. “Haw” in particular stands out for its singing melodica melody and relaxed dub-inflected rhythmic underpinning while “Nemoroso,” spurred on by electric guitar twang, Theremin warble, and Latin percussion, brings a darker, G-man vibe to the set. Filled as it is with oddball percussion accents, “Dip” sounds like an instrumental that didn't quite make Pet Sounds' final cut; “Hoke,” on the other hand, serves up a vibrant shuffle driven by horns and twanging guitar. Rather inexplicably, American poet John Giorno shows up in “N in S” declaiming lines like “Everyone gets lighter” and “It's not what happens, it's how you handle it” over a easy-rocking, post-rock base. Tracks sway with a summery, South American and even Hawaiian feel that captivates, in large part on account of the ease with which the music blends so many disparate styles and sounds (including cello by Jenny Jones, Theremin by Simon Walbrook, and vibraphone and glockenspiel by Pablo Rivas, among others) into a unique whole. Bradien infuses its music with a multi-hued spirit thoroughly in keeping with its cover illustration.

Wackier by comparison but a fun ride nonetheless is the first album from Barcelona-based bRUNA who squeezes sixteen cuts into a skin-tight twenty-six minutes (the shortest, “I Knew It Would Never Last,” is less than six seconds). The unidentified producer comes out of the crate-digging bedroom producer tradition but brings to it an infectious enthusiasm and obvious love for multiple genres. Essentially what you get is the running soundtrack of bRUNA's mind, with concise tracks darting between boom-bap sparkle (“Forgiveness”), emotronic balladry (“Please Don't Make Me Sorry”), and synthesizer-heavy settings both church-like (“As Something Reminds of a Past Failure”) and stately (“For The Day We Met”). A few influences seemingly declare themselves along the way—the pulsating flamethrower “Lost and Found” undergirds creamy analog synth melodies with a poppy rhythm base like some lost Boards of Canada epic, and a Keith Emerson-styled Moog wails at the heart of the fulminating “Settle For Nothing Less”—but the channel-surfing abandon of bRUNA's material stays with you long after any influence-spotting. In “Don't Give Up,” voice shredding catches one's ear first but it's the snappy funk blaze that follows that really recommends the track. In isolated cases, concision works against the album when a promising track like “It Could Have Been Better” could so easily have lent itself to development beyond a one-minute running time. Ultimately the album comes across as kaleidoscopic, despite its blink-and-you'll-miss-it running time.

September 2009