Brasstronaut's third studio album — their first in four years — was created with members of the sextet based in Vancouver, Winnipeg and New York. In theory, such distance would make it quite difficult for a band to pull off a cohesive-sounding record. For Brasstronaut, though, both time and space worked to their advantage.
Picking up on the group's constant evolution — from the effortless fusion of jazz, pop and ambiance on their critically acclaimed 2010 debut, Mount Chimaera, to 2012's decidedly more mellow Mean Sun — the new album features brighter and richer arrangements. Experimental touches of electronica are still present, but they're gently subdued in a way that both enhances and elevates the fuller-bodied instrumentation.
It works beautifully. While the tracks are wholly distinct from one another, Brasstronaut's foundation of eclectic influence creates a backbone that allows the songs to feel constantly unified. "Desert Rock," for example, with its sun-bleached riffs, is in a completely different sonic realm than the instrumental "Whitney," where anticipatory keys and screaming horns move from evocative to ambient — but the two are united by thick, jazzy bass lines and dynamic tempos.
Altogether, the songs are like little vignettes, telling stories through vibrant composition and affecting lyrics. On "Climb," a song about finding hope in love, lines like "I've been swimming in golden oceans of courage" paint gorgeous imagery against pitter-patter percussion and sweet blasts of brass and, as the album's closer, leaves the tone on a suitably positive note — indeed, much like the record does as a whole.
On Brasstronaut, the band show they are truly the sum of their parts: dexterous musicians, artful composers and poetic lyricists. In this way, perhaps it's only appropriate that the album is self-titled — here, the music speaks for itself. (Hybridity)