Melan­choly chimes

Bro­ken Bells finds its unique voice in a beau­ti­ful, sad, kind of dark record.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY

Bro­ken Bells finds its unique voice in a beau­ti­ful, sad, kind of dark record.

BRIAN Bur­ton and James Mercer worked in se­cret for al­most a year as they de­vel­oped tunes for a group that would be­come the Bro­ken Bells. That ap­proach prob­a­bly was for the best.

When word got out that Bur­ton, the eclec­tic pro­ducer whose cred­its in­clude be­ing one­half of Gnarls Barkley and this year’s lon­gawaited Dark Night Of The Soul with Sparkle­horse, was work­ing with the Shins’ leader, plenty of ex­pec­ta­tions arose, most of them wrong.

“I think some peo­ple thought it would be a Shins record pro­duced by Dan­ger Mouse,” said Mercer, re­fer­ring to Bur­ton’s pro­ducer nick­name.

“Or that I would be bring­ing beats,” in­ter­jected Bur­ton.

Or that it would be an­other side project for Bur­ton, known for his unique col­lab­o­ra­tions in­clud­ing The Good, The Bad & The Queen that in­cluded the Go­ril­laz’s Da­mon Al­barn and the Clash’s Paul Si­monon.

What emerged is an al­bum with a sound they call a “sci-fi space-pop al­bum” and a group they in­sist is more than a one-off part­ner­ship.

“We just want to make sure that peo­ple un­der­stand that this is a band and this is what we are fo­cus­ing on,” said Mercer, whose Shins have not re­leased an al­bum in three years.

“Some­times we wish we were two guys no­body had ever heard of and this was our first band, be­cause it would help us when peo­ple talk about it to not talk about ev­ery­thing else that we’ve done ex­cept for this al­bum,” said Bur­ton.

Brian Bur­ton (left) and James Mercer have formed a band and re­leased an al­bum they de­scribe as ‘sci-fi space-pop’.

The duo put out their de­but self-ti­tled CD this year and re­cently launched the sec­ond leg of their Amer­i­can tour. The al­bum has ce­mented their mu­si­cal part­ner­ship and their friend­ship.

The pair, though ad­mir­ers of each other’s work, were not ex­actly friends when they started work­ing on the al­bum at Bur­ton’s home. In­stead, they were more in­ter­ested in forg­ing a new sound to­gether.

“We wanted to make this beau­ti­ful, sad, kind of dark record be­cause that’s where we re­ally crossed over in a lot of ways, but in a real psy­che­delic, catchy way,” said Bur­ton.

The band went lo-fi, us­ing older technology to achieve a gritty retro ef­fect.

They found that they meshed both son­i­cally and emo­tion­ally.

“I’d fly down there and stay at Brian’s house (in Los An­ge­les), in his guest room, and then we’d wake up and have break­fast and go into the stu­dio and work all day,” said the Port­land, Ore­gon-based Mercer.

They would spend all day talk­ing, too: “I think those con­ver­sa­tions about your life, your world view, end up in­form­ing the lyrics,” said Mercer.

Given the tone of the songs, moody and melan­choly, and a bit de­press­ing, those talks must have been pretty weighty. But the pair would not ex­plain the mean­ing be­hind songs like The Ghost In­side, The Mall & Mis­ery and Sail­ing To Nowhere.

“When you re­veal too much about the song’s mean­ing, you can end up dis­ap­point­ing some peo­ple who had their own sort of take on it,” said Mercer.

The songs rep­re­sented the cre­ative vi­sion of both men, which was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for Mercer, who has car­ried the weight of song writ­ing for the Shins.

“It’s very dif­fer­ent for me be­cause we just share the writ­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, we work to­gether,” he said.

“Ei­ther one of us al­ways had veto power over any note, any lyric,” added Bur­ton.

It cer­tainly is not as soul­ful as Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, but it has more groove than any­thing from the Shins. The mu­sic is rock­tinged with trippy vibe, and veers from a driv­ing pace to a down­beat, mo­rose tone. The pair be­lieves it is un­like any mu­sic they have done be­fore, which was their goal: to cre­ate a sound unique to the Bro­ken Bells.

“When we were done with the record, this is the record that we wanted to make,” said Bur­ton. “This is the most com­fort­able I’ve been with an al­bum af­ter I’ve fin­ished with it.” – AP n Bro­ken Bells’ self-ti­tled de­but is re­leased by Sony Mu­sic.

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