interesting release here from Broken Dog. It’s
a defiantly ‘indie’ record, but certainly has charms, not the
least that it is very nicely packaged and presented. Always a
If something is described as ‘background music’, it is often
taken as a criticism. But there is something nice about music
that you can put on, but which doesn’t distract you in any way.
Of course, there is a place – a very special place – for music
that demands one’s undivided attention, but music that can
enhance the atmosphere of the room, especially when you are
reading for example, that you can appreciate without procuring
total involvement to, is very useful. 'Harmonia'
achieves that liitle function nicely. Indeed, it is a very
mellow, pretty album and makes the world feel a nicer place
whilst it is played. It reminded me a lot of Saddle Creek’s
Azure Ray, with the female vocals and delicate
accompaniment. Broken Dog need some more
engaging songs to be considered truly a complete band, and this
album is probably a little samey to be considered great, but
neverthesless a more than welcome contribution.
Harmonia " (Tongue Master)
Sunday Times - December 12, 2004
of the Year
The Sunday Times music reviewers select their top 10 pop and jazz
albums of 2004
POP AND JAZZ
JOANNA NEWSOM: The Milk-Eyed Mender
The press concentrated on this Californians flower-child image,
gnomic utterances and unorthodox instrumentation (the harp) at the
expense of what proved to be the years most fiercely original
album, with vocals pitched somewhere between a coo and a caterwaul,
lyrics that namecheck Camus and music that melds Elizabethan madrigals
with Appalachian folk.
THE KILLERS: Hot Fuss (Lizard King)
One of pops greatest debut singles Mr Brightside
was followed by an awesome first album. Some viewed the Las Vegas
quartets update of glam and 1980s electropop as daylight robbery;
but when a band uses the spoils this thrillingly, frankly, who gives
KINGS OF CONVENIENCE: Riot on an Empty Street (Source)
The reigning monarchs of melancholic dance-folk emerged from the
Norwegian woods with a second album of, at times, almost unbearably
beautiful music. Passion and regret have never sounded this lovely.
SUFJAN STEVENS: Michigan (Rough Trade)
A journey in the dark: there was simply no way of knowing where
Stevenss tales of ghostly rust-belt towns and endless rural
vistas would take you next. This wistful, ambivalent love letter
to his home state delved into folk, country, minimalism and bluegrass
to devastating effect.
KANYE WEST: The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella/Mercury)
As mischievous rumours circulate that West is just one overcooked
room-service burger away from flipping out, its worth remembering
that the man dropped 2004s most compelling reminder of why
we spent all those years looking to hip-hop for thrilling innovation.
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS: Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
A double album on which Mr Cave and co rode the twin horses of dark,
galloping rock and even darker balladry, in the company of gospel
choirs, inspiration both divine and infernal, and some of the most
extraordinary lyrics this twisted preacher-poet has ever produced.
FRANZ FERDINAND: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
Sweeping all before them with infectious, triumphant ease, the Glaswegian
art-rockers hoisted the flag of sing-along, dance-along pop with
a brain in the upper reaches of the charts which were all
the better for it.
CATHY DAVEY: Something Ilk (Regal)
The Dubliner took the trusty tools of guitar, scorching singing
voice, pad, pencil and dragons to slay, and wrestled them into an
exceptional debut that veered exhilaratingly between fury and ecstasy.
FEIST: Let It Die (Polydor)
The years best new singer, this Canadian former punk relocated
to Paris to conjure a haunting set of folktronica seen through a
Gallic glass (darkly).
BROKEN DOG: Harmonia (Tongue Master)
One of Britains most underrated bands laid out a glacial sonic
terrain of muzzy, jangling guitars, hushed vocals and bleak yet
Harmonia " (Tongue Master) 8/10
is Clive Painter and Martine Roberts' fifth album under the guise
of Broken Dog, a project that travels on starry, ethereal journeys
through glacial soundscapes. At times " Harmonia " glides
into the realms of Mogwai's mellower moments, as on " I Do
Not Trouble ", or towards The Postal Service's warped urban
electronica (" Alone With A Pounding Heart "). Throughout,
Martine's angelic vocals echo Aimee Mann's lo-fi delicacy, but on
a higher register that reaches for the heavens. " Origin Is
Unknown " is dainty flawlessness, whirling the listener away
with mini crescendos of lament. This is a dreamy affair that sweeps
you into a slumber, massaging your ears with swathes of blissful
instrumentation. Music for hippies, certainly, but Broken Dog's
appeal should stretch wider than that, to anyone who sometimes needs
a perfect comedown after a stressful day. " Harmonia "
is the zenith of music to relax to.
Harmonia " (Tongue Master)
" Folk " as a musical genre has rather been reclaimed
from the bearded real ale types, but for me, previous Broken Dog
releases were still a wee bit too folky for my tastes. However,
they're on their fifth album now and boy, have they come on, making
a comparatively dense, big sound which contrasts with their stripped-down
past releases. A sparseness and strangeness pervades " Harmonia
", soundscapes are built up and torn down - I hesitate to use
the word ethereal but Martine Roberts' vocals have a airy breathy
quality. However, there are also hints of Mercury Rev, Grandaddy
and The Delgados, as Clive Painter makes enough sound to fool the
listener that there's a full, slightly unconventional orchestra
in the studio at times. Despite the slow almost deliberate pace
of the 9 tracks here, the album flies by, while the song titles
speak for themselves - the triumphant peak that is " Radios
" has what it takes to be a favourite on the wireless, while
" Waiting For Something Big " shows that Broken Dog may
indeed have finally arrived.
- STUART McHUGH
Harmonia " (Tongue Master Records) * * *
Broken Dog are at the intersection of avant-ambient and neo-folk
music, drafting slow-mo acoustic across hushed electronica and the
celestial effect that sounds like the dreams of sleeping children.
Lifting them above the sludge of similar bands is outstanding vocalist
Martine Roberts, who recalls Hope Sandoval and Stina Nordenstam
but also survives with her own persona intact. " Harmonia "
is the London band's fifth album and, alongside more mainstream
bands such as Zero 7, sounds almost perversely uncommercial. Lovely,
if only for those late nights when you can't be bothered to listen
to anything else.
Harmonia " (Tongue Master) ****
If Broken Dog's Clive Painter and Martine Roberts were from a hip
backwater in the States they would be much bigger, after five albums,
than they are now. Their collective vision is one that walks the
same melancholy dirt roads populated by the likes of Low and Mazzy
Star. Multi-instrumentalist Clive paints the musical backdrop with
brushed guitars and swathes of psychedelic Harmonium effects while
Martine's haunting, breathy vocals add colour to the picture. Broken
Dog create a wall of sound in much the same way that Phil Spector
or Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine do. Yet, theirs is a more
gentle, folkier approach. The emotional impact is just the same
though, with tunes like the beauteous, brass-tinged " I Do
Not Trouble ", or " Alone With A Pounding Heart "
which brings to mind the atmospheric, cinematic vision of early
Goldfrapp. The country-tinged " Waiting For Something Big "
and the sublime " Radios " have a stark and mysterious
beauty. The darkly gothic " I'll Think Of It Today " is
" Harmonia's " finest moment in a collection of nine near-perfect
Harmonia " (Tongue Master) **
The day a shoe-gazing indie band who write ethereal songs about
love and ennui (delivered with spooky emotional detachment) set
these to anything other than shimmering, filigreed guitar and wheezing
keyboards will be the day we know the revolution is nigh. But who
needs something as untidy and inconvenient as revolution when you
can have Clive Painter and Martine Roberts, back with a fifth helping
of coffin-table music that is as beautiful and sepulchral as much
determinedly insular music can be? So delicate it seems to leave
only a trace of chill breath on your neck, " Harmonia "
is almost certainly embedding itself slowly but surely in your unconscious.
" Don't sing to me, don't let that sweetness near. " intones
Roberts, doing precisely what she cautions against. Wonderful.
" Harmonia " (Tongue Master) **** 1/2
Those drawn by lovely, lonely, trance-inducing melancholy will be
thrilled at the return of Broken Dog following a two year hiatus.
In the interim Clive Painter and Martine Roberts have been busying
themselves raising the likes of (The Real) Tuesday Weld, Sigmatropic
and Monograph to higher planes, returning with an all-too-short
(38 minute) set of twitchy noir, otherwordly ethereality and rumbling
threnody. Roberts' perpetually erotic baby-doll voice takes centre
stage, but the real stars are Painter's vivid, multi-instrumental
constructions; intricately folded, almost symphonic pieces that
aren't so much arranged as forced into strangely-shaped boxes -
one minute evoking a colliery band, the next decamping to Twin Peaks.
Remarkably - for this is their fifth album - they're still revealing
untapped potential. Wow.
" Harmonia " (Tongue Master) ***
Dreamy lo-fi duo deliver diaphanous career-best
One suspects, frankly, that fans of the diffident lower-case furrow
ploughed by introspective boy-girl combos ever since Fraser and
Guthrie first sculpted with powdered sugar and Hope Sandoval whipped
her minions to attention will happily buy this noise by the filmy
yard. Londoners Clive Painter (honeyed guitars) and Martine Roberts
(breathily sotto voice) have always met audience expectations, but
their fifth outing as Broken Dog sees the surpass their dreamy brief
with shy aplomb, undercutting lassitude with uneasiness ("
I'll Think Of It Today "), icy starlight with scratchy dissonance
(" Alone With A Pounding Heart") and, in the full-blooded
swell of " Waiting For Something Big ", a glorious glimpse
of May sunshine through those wistful, wintry skies.
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