Brother,
As You Were
(Rhubarb, 2006)


Aside from occasionally sounding a bit too much like lost tracks by The Men They Couldn't Hang, As You Were, subtitled "Favourites from 1991-2003," is a diverse collection of live and studio recordings drawn from Brother's catalogue of a dozen independent releases.

Brother is a musical collective centered on the Richardson brothers (Angus, Hamish and Fergus) and is based out of Los Angeles; but the band's Australian roots and love of Celtic music shine through the L.A. haze. The band's website, brothermusic.com, describes their music as "tribal celtic" and the label does capture the freewheeling atmosphere that dominates Brother's sound.

Interestingly, despite the fact that some of the songs on As You Were are more than a decade old, nothing on the album feels particularly dated. This may be due to the fact that the combination of bagpipes and didgeridoo has never become associated with a particular musical movement or moment in time. There's a timelessness to the band's sound that makes even the track "The Machine: 2006" sound fresh. "The Machine: 2006" is a rebuilt, remixed, reinvented version of the first song that Brother recorded. It dates back to 1991, prior to the ensemble's move to the northern hemisphere.

Not every track here incorporates "pipes and didge," but the best of the songs featured in this collection manage to weave these distinctive sounds seamlessly into the mix. This is no simple feat as both of these instruments are sufficiently idiosyncratic that they could easily become a distraction. But Angus, Hamish and Fergus, the wielders of these instruments, have a deep understanding of the drone. And it's this knowledge that makes the trio's use of these intriguingly related musical textures feel completely natural in their pop/rock compositions.

The other component of these songs that stands out as exceptional is the drumming which, despite being handled by a shifting group of percussionists, frequently has an earthy edge that lives up to the "tribal" label. Songs like "Crazy" from the I, You, You, Me album (2001), "Stand Beside Me" from Your Backyard (1998) and "One Heart, One Soul" from The Digging Bone (1997) are particularly strong percussive inclusions.

On the quieter side of things, "Believe Again" is a song stripped to guitar and vocal minimalism. "Carry Me" is a mournful, grey sky piece, "Wide as this land / Deep as the sea / Gentle as a bird on the wing / You carry me." The lyric reads as cliched, but the arrangement and vocal delivery convey an honesty and quiet passion. Meanwhile, "Fly Away" soars on the exquisite guitar work of Steve Luxenberg who contributes to more than half a dozen tracks drawn from the midpoint of Brother's existence (1998 to 2001).

The two live tracks, "Romp & Circumstance" and "The Time is Now" from the This Way Up album, capture an exuberance that suggests this is definitely a band to see live. The "rough and ready" atmosphere of these songs is undoubtedly due in part to the newness of the band's line up at the time of their recording. There had only been a few weeks' worth of shows to break in drummer Roel Kuiper and guitarist Steve Luxenberg. But then again change has been a constant in Brother's existence.

And now, once again, the band members are at a critical juncture in their musical evolution. Hamish and Fergus Richardson have made their departure from the combo, leaving Angus Richardson, Drew Reid and Dave "Dalbo" Allen to carry on as a trio. This new Brother lineup plans to continue to concoct its unique musical smorgasbord for appreciative fans and, with this terrific compilation as a guide, that fan base should grow considerably. Pick it up.

[ visit the artist's website ]




Rambles.NET
review by
Gregg Thurlbeck

2 February 2008


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