Brael: Brael

Brael's self-titled release houses its two 3-inch discs within a tiny cardboard sleeve along with a … beermat? Perplexity subsides once one realizes that the release (300 copies total) has been issued on Morteer's “micro-brewery” subsidiary Mobeer. That modest stab at humour shouldn't, however, suggest that the music Steve Dannemiller and Joachim Hero produce under the Brael name shouldn't be taken seriously. Though the two are operating within a stylistic tradition that's most strongly associated with Boards of Canada, the American duo establishes its own voice strongly on the Mobeer release's seven songs. While there's an ethereal quality to the group's sound, there's also a strong focus on melody and arrangement. Anything but alienating and cold, Brael's electroacoustic scene paintings are thoroughly inviting.

As if slowly opening its eyes, “Morning” welcomes the bucolic sounds of the new day with faint bird chirps and a sleepy Rhodes melody before getting moving with a more aggressive blend of swaying beats and sparkling melodies. Vibes and electric piano lend the eight-minute song a stately quality while electric guitar and assorted electronic textures sweeten it with colourful detail. Analogue synths open “Magic” in trademark Boards of Canada fashion but the inclusion of Greg Conte's pedal steel playing pushes the song into a dreamy zone that's wholly unique. Brael's remix of The Remote Viewer's “Last Night” caps the first disc without drastically departing from the downtempo flow of the preceding tracks, as Conte's pedal steel again brings an irresistibly serenading quality to the material. The vocals on disc two's “Blue Field,” faintly reminiscent of Pink Floyd in their feathery breeziness, may be denaturalized by being presented backwards, but the treatment doesn't diminish the song's seductive appeal. During the brief closer “Ocean,” the glimmer of bright melodic fragments is visible just below the water's surface until the mood darkens and melodies disappear into the murky depths. Don't let the release's miniature presentation fool you: Brael is high-quality material whose attention to detail indicates a refined sense of song-craft.

March 2009