When Ryan Smith started dabbling with demos on his phone, having one of them played on national radio was surely the furthest thing from his mind. But BBC Introducing, much to his surprise, did precisely that. Soon after, bdrmm turned into a band.
Formed in Hull, although having since relocated to Leeds, the band have released a smattering of EPs and seen glowing praise with one common observation: shoegaze. Once snapped up by Sonic Cathedral, the tag seemed like a good fit, even if it was unintentional, but the bond between the label and other shoegaze acts like The Tambourines would have stood them in good stead, feeling like a snug fit; perhaps it felt like finding a comfortable home, one they’d spent a while seeking without knowing exactly what it was they wanted.
None of the earlier releases make the debut album, Bedroom (named after where it all began), which probably shines a light on Smith’s capabilities more than anything. It was similar with shoegaze stalwarts Ride when they first appeared, and there’s plenty here to remind of the Oxford band. Single A Reason To Celebrate is a fine example, with Smith stating, “it’s OK for you to walk away” in typical shoegaze resignation, amidst dreamy guitar melodies and vocals sounding like a fresh-faced Mark Gardener, but there’s an element of guitar wall noise missing from a direct comparison. The excellent Push-Pull is another track that glances over its shoulder at Ride, feeling like an echo of the past, yet one that stands on its own two feet with its shimmering intro and mesmerising guitars recalling Gardener’s touring partner and occasional collaborator Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins.
Indeed, with instrumental opener Momo belting out an exciting rhythm from the off, it’s an impressive three-track start. According to Smith, the collection has taken a few years to come together but the underlying theme is heavily driven by his own personal life and various issues, all meticulously jotted down in his notebook before being laid bare. When Happy crashes in via The Cure guitar tones with Smith singing “I hope that you’re happy, ‘cos I’m happy if you’re happy”, you’re not only sucked into more stereotypical shoegazing, but you’re also drawn into his personal insecurities about a dysfunctional relationship, contrastingly portrayed within a jaunty outer shell.
Spidery guitar lines weave in and out of Is That What You Wanted To Hear, again recalling Cocteau Twins where floaty vocals and dreamy guitar lines do battle. But it isn’t until three minutes have passed that more Cure-like instrumentalism gives the track some much needed direction. Closer Forget The Credits also loses itself in a cinematic, sweeping manner, although the fuzzy guitars of If…, sat atop a repetitive, driving bass riff, give a decent impression of what the band can deliver. The trick is to do this without dullness creeping into the repetition, though, and that’s not always the case on Bedroom.
Thankfully though, less worthy moments are heavily outnumbered by their more interesting peers and, for a first full collection, Bedroom is a resounding success. bdrmm have chosen a well-worn path, but there’s a freshness here nevertheless.