The Obelisk

Review & Track Premiere: Brume, Rooster

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Reckon’ by Brume. Their debut album, Rooster, is out April 20 on DHU Records and Doom Stew Records ahead of a UK tour (info here) including a stop at Desertfest London 2017.]

A dense fog comes to rest over the 51 minutes of Brume‘s Rooster. By the end of the 10-minute opening track, it has settled in despite — or perhaps because of — the pervasive thrust the San Francisco trio have conjured, and it remains a factor for the six-track duration. Fortunately, the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Susie McMullin, guitarist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis chose the most capable of navigators, Billy Anderson (NeurosisMelvinsAcid KingSleep, need I go on?), to help guide them forward. Rooster, issued through Perkins-Lewis‘ own Doom Stew Records on CD, tape and download with vinyl forthcoming from DHU Records, winds up not so much getting lost in this fog as inhaling it, plugging in, and riffing out with marked force, thickness and presence.

Their 2015 debut EP, Donkey, was a showcase of promise, and Rooster is a longer one, but in stepping forward to give their building audience a first real chance to take in the scope of what Brume — who got together in 2014 — can and will be as a band, they do not flub the opportunity. With longer pieces “Grit and Pearls” (10:06) and “Tradewind” (11:48) as bookends at the outset and finish, the fervent plod of “Harold” (7:30), “Reckon” (9:13) and the rolling “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” (9:29) between, as well as the penultimate acoustic-based “Welter” (2:55) leading into the closer, Rooster realizes the potential of the prior EP and moves forward with it, successfully melding together influences into what Perkins-Lewis might call a “doom stew” of their own recipe.

For those new to the band, with the airy, soulful melodicism of McMullin‘s voice echoing spaciously over the molasses riffery, one might hear them at first as spiritual successors to the recently-defunct Uzala, but the turns of “Grit and Pearls” immediately widen this impression with rhythmic stops drawn from the post-YOB sphere of cosmic doom and Mike Scheidt‘s particular style of angularity. The key, though, is immersion. By the time “Grit and Pearls” has finished its 10-minute course, shifting from vast plod into quiet atmospherics and back through the faster ending that’s the source of the YOB comparison above, they’ve managed to hook the listener with a repetitive nodding groove. Their sense of pacing and willingness to vary tempos emerges as something of a theme throughout, but Rooster never becomes more monotonous than it wants to be. Monolithic, perhaps.

“Harold” begins by teasing the lighter strum-and-pluck that “Welter” will later bring before crashing in at full weight and unfolding its first ethereal verse, slower and more doomed than “Grit and Pearls” before it — I keep hearing early Cathedral in McCathie‘s guitar progression, but I can’t place it exactly — and they settle into a consuming roll as they move past the halfway point, the last minute of the song being the real point of departure as the central rhythm gives way to feedback and ambient noise with Perkins-Lewis‘ drums behind, a grueling end that perfectly sets up the doom-gone-TwinPeaks-barroom-blues launch of “Reckon.” The third of Rooster‘s six cuts fascinates conceptually as McMullin plays off the country music trope of the cowgirl singing the tale of meeting a mysterious stranger, but instead of a sharp-eyed, all-chin guy on horseback, he’s got a beard and rides a beat-up motorcycle. Nonetheless, the vibe that results makes “Reckon” a standout, as does its more prevalent hook and open-feeling, drum-and-chanting midsection break that swells to an apex with a layered-over guitar lead that recalls “Grit and Pearls” in its intent without necessarily retreading what’s already been done.

It seems likely that “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” will mark the start of the vinyl’s side B after “Reckon” finishes the album’s longer-by-two-minutes side A, and that break between the two songs feels somewhat essential as a factor in the flow throughout Rooster as a whole. That is, the effect of Perkins-Lewis‘ drums returning to start “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” is best experienced with the breath-catching moment provided to the listener by flipping a record. Even the digital version of “Reckon” has a couple seconds of silence at the end, and that feels very much on purpose and very correct. When it gets going, with the rumble of McMullin‘s bass and feedback from McCathie‘s guitar soon enough joining the tom runs to draw the listener into the patient groove, “Call the Serpent’s Bluff” swirls out hypnotic, doomedelic nod, an early lead giving way to more insistent pulse before spacious vocal melody transitions into slower riffing, a quiet introduction of the back-half hook and build back to the crawling, crashing finish recitations, ending with the vocals as a standalone element. That subtle moment of minimalism makes an effective transition into “Welter”; the shortest cut and starkest contrast to its surroundings, sonically if not in overall mood.

Backed by acoustic strum, McMullin echoes the bluesier feel of “Reckon” in another context, surrounded by a flourish of keys for a neofolkish stretch one might relate to Windhand but that serves all the same to further widen the breadth of Rooster ahead of “Tradewind,” which comes to life slowly over likewise quiet strum and cymbal wash before the full heft arrives at around two and a half minutes in to commence a series of loud/quiet tradeoffs that once again find Brume working in a varied structural context even as they reinforce the brooding feel of the record as a whole and offer one last deceptively catchy chorus. The nature of their craft, with a focus on longer songs meting out grueling and at times otherworldly doom, doesn’t necessarily lend itself toward the expectation of hooks, but Brume have a few throughout Rooster, as “Tradewind” duly reminds, and that seems an avenue where the trio might continue to grow as they take the lessons of their debut forward into whatever might come next. Along with the cohesive ambience and fluidity of their presentation on the whole, this underlying foundation of songwriting gives them another tradition to make their own as they begin to do in these tracks.

Jordan Perkins-Lewis

San Francisco, CA