Cry For Me by Breather (Review)

Breather has a rich atmospheric sound that’s anchored down and energized by its darker currents.

There’s a lot to like on this disc, even when you consider that nearly half of it consists of remixes and reworkings of existing Breather material. The aspect of Breather’s music that I find so appealing is that they’ve managed to fuse the atmospherics of shoegazer groups like Slowdive with a darker, edgier electronic sound along the same lines as Halou, or even Garbage minus Shirley Manson’s sneer. When the band is on (and they are on nearly every minute of this EP), they have a rich atmospheric sound that’s anchored down and energized by its darker currents.

Cry For Me opens up with jangly guitars that sound like they drifted over from Ivy’s latest, but a distorted guitar and Jessica Cook’s alluring vocals quickly give the song a little more bite, especially when the song hits the bridge. “Paramour” might be Cry For Me’s lightest moment, with brushed percussion and acoustic strumming that recall Velour 100’s magnificent Fall Sounds (though Cook’s vocals have more weight to them than Amon Krist’s ever did).

“Catharsis” brings back the electronics, with static synths and sparse guitar melodies. It also features some of the EP’s most interesting vocal work, as Cook and guitarists Alicia Skala and Scott Gockerman trade off of each other. Sometimes the vocals are icy, sometimes sensual, but usually a little bit of both. The “Then I’ll Take You” remix of “Catharsis” delves more into the song’s electronic side, with insistent rhythms, interesting synthwork, and glitchy noises taking the forefront. This is also the case with the “Purple Dogs on Pluto” mix of “All the Beauty,” with jungle-ish rhythms churning away behind cut-up vocals and guitars. (Imagine a harsher, darker version of Love Spirals Downwards’ Flux album, or Halou’s most electronic moments, and you’ll come close.)

The release’s electronic leanings fully manifest themselves on the “Bleeding Heart” mix of “Cry For Me.” Here, the band fully indulges in their goth side, bringing in EBM rhythms and heavily distorted guitars (think Circle of Dust, Under Midnight, or any other late ’90s guitar-based industrial band). That’s all fine and dandy, but it feels clumsily out of place, especially in relation to the gracefulness of “Paramour” or “Catharsis.”

If the aforementioned track saw Breather’s electronica side manifest itself, the “Pulse Ambient” mix of “Gone” finds it completely dissipated. Stray vocal fragments and guitar rumblings slowly collect dust over a simple rhythm and electronic pulse. And it just gets more abstract, as Cook’s vocals slowly attempt to coalesce into some windblown form; there’s a song somewhere in those vocal snippets, but just as they start coming together, a bass pulse sends them scattering. It’s the album’s most abstract moment, but strangely enough, one of its most interesting, if not beautiful. And its spacious sound makes it a far better (albeit stranger) companion piece to the EP’s earlier tracks.