Album Reviews

Our Brother The Native – Sacred Psalms

(FatCat) UK release date: 11 May 2009

Just after the half way point of Sacred Psalms during the song Awaken, the words “Please wake me up cos I can’t take this any more” seem to be loaded with a startling relevance.

Having been bored to death by the previous six songs, sleep or indeed literal death would be a preferable option to having to plough on with the remainder of the album. Sacred Psalms is, to be kind, a frustrating listen. It’s not that it’s particularly awful. In fact it’s awash with good ideas. But there are too many of them. Too many per song, per verse, per line, per second, and every single one of them seems so self-assured, considered and cocky.

The avant garde, of course, is considered and measured in its execution, and we accept that, but there is something so unlovable and smug about Our Brother The Native that it becomes hard to like their music.

There are moments during Sacred Psalms when the band (consisting of two web based musicians emailing ideas and arrangements to each other) find themselves with something approaching a melody. It might sound a bit like Arcade Fire in places for example. Elsewhere the drones emulate the sound of A Silver Mount Zion or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, which is great.

But then Our Brother The Native fucks it all up. It’s as if they’ve veered too close to something conventional and decided to screw it up on purpose. Should they pile on a steel drum outbreak during some sweet instrumental exposition? Should they insist that the violinist play just slightly out of key so as to ruin an otherwise perfect drone section that Philip Glass would have been proud of? Should they? No. Do They? Oh yes they do.

Every step of the way is frustrating. The Eastern sounds of opening track Well Bred are lost amongst a riotous cacophony of percussion, meandering vocals and honking brass. A school band bus crashing into a wind-chime factory would make a more eloquent sound than this.

There are moments on Sacred Psalms that are truly interesting though. The percussion in particular merits a special mention as at times it is incredibly evocative. Japan, Africa, the Middle East, and a First World War battlefield are all conjured in the minds eye as you listen.When they keep things simple, as they do on Awaken they are at their most effective. Sticking with one idea and exploring it rather than throwing everything in is a philosophy the band should adhere to more often. But these moments of clarity and excellence are few and far between. More often than not they’re obscured by the band’s need to wilfully scupper all their good work.

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More on Our Brother The Native
Our Brother The Native – Sacred Psalms
Our Brother The Native – Make Amends For We Are Merely Vessels
Our Brother The Native – Tooth And Claw