• Charlotte Hardman

LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Jamais Vu' - Branch to Root

Following on from your debut album, which should have been the piece of work that really kick-starts your career, in the current state of the world, is tough. It is always likely to breed darkness; and even just comparing the covers of Branch to Root's debut LP with their new EP, ‘Jamais Vu’, is enough to tell you that much. The iridescent golds have been replaced with eerie, haunting imagery, and the music contained within that cover is equally as evocative.

Opener ‘Gold’ is, not unsurprisingly perhaps, the brightest moment on the record. Warm-toned, plaintive guitars build through an eponymous, glistening crescendo, which then breaks into a heavier, grittier lead riff than you might expect. As the melody doesn’t pitch and trough along with the vocal line, there is a danger that track could have become stodgy and unrelenting, and while it is true that, at times, this four-minute crusade feels a little like moving through molten gold, there is big, lighter-waving energy radiating from the tracks’ epicentre, and a grandiose feeling that runs like an undercurrent beneath which is enough to keep it’s sense of vitality trickling on.

In something of a contrast, the drums kick into life and energy fizzles through the guitars from the outset of ‘Brave’. Driven forwards by the relentless drum fills, there is an indie lilt to the vocals; yet the pitch of the chorus is lower and darker, giving it a post-hardcore grit that endears it more to sweaty basement stages that sun-soaked festival ones! Murkier still is its successor, ‘Losing Sleep’ – though this track also boasts a subtle softness that bestows it with a dreamier quality too. The off-kilter strumming is pervaded by melancholy, the lyrics laced with a heartache that has faded to a constant numbness. This song is the perfect soundtrack to the late, slow nights, as it doesn’t require dynamics that shift dramatically between verse and chorus, because its essence comes from its long, slow, rhythmic nature. Its delicacy is innate: the bridge swells just a little, as verses slides seamlessly into choruses and out again, and the off-beat harmonies swirl in the closing moments.

Initially it seems these tracks pair off relatively well in alternating couplets, as the closing track ‘Last Miles’ has a touch more bite in its opening section. Yet all four of these tracks are strung together by the wistful vocal tone, which takes centre stage here, as the harmonies glide into the forefront and the guitars and drums sit further back in the mix. The pounding drums in the bridge are the most rousing moment on this EP yet, leading into the final chorus which thuds along with an energy that threatens to break free via the squealing guitar in the bridge, but which the band just manage to haul back behind the misty veil.

Overall, ‘Jamais Vu’ is the kind of record you can lose yourself in whilst travelling late at night or using music to fill the silence. Not that it doesn’t have merit when explored in depth, because it certainly does; but, for me, the beauty of this shadowy, contemplative genre is that it marries perfectly as a backing track to the dark and the quiet moments when music that speaks to you is what you need surrounding you the most.

'Jamais Vu' is out now as a self-release - stream the record here:

Check out the video for the lead single from the EP, 'Gold', below:


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Bandcamp: http://branchtoroot.bandcamp.com/