Bronwyn – Through the Fog, Through the Pines

Through the Fog, Through the Pines

So this Bronwyn here, residents of the PDX metrosphere, plays this sort of slightly discordant rock that is at once jangly and angular, indie-pop and emo, good and bad. Like two sides of a particularly shambolic coin, Bronwyn can exist in equal parts pleasure and pain. Most of the time, this pleasure and pain is wrapped up in perfect unison, leaving musical droppings of indeterminate quality in their wake. But when the spectrum lilts dramatically to either side, who knows what the results may be?
Through the Fog, Through the Pines, the young band’s first crack, can be a consternating affair. Some of it is damn fine, like “Spotting Ships,” which resembles Polvo being thrashed by Cat Power, and the dramatic and moving “Twenty-two.” Other songs are hard to handle, like “Ten Billion Remote Controls,” which starts off fine but quickly grows into one of the worst songs to use TV as a metaphor since the Boss’s own little embarrassment. Most of the record, though, is neutral, inoffensive but unimpressive. It’s another indie-rock record that sounds a bit too much like its influences.
The band possesses some distinct opinions about how to do things, and those predilections directly define whether any given song will work or not. Their combination of angular rhythms and guitar lines (in the vein of Mary Timony) with jangly open-chord riffs can sound rather odd at times, and when paired with the sorta-bad-but-oddly-intriguing voices of primary singers Richel Martinez and Sarah Wilmer, the whole deal has equal chance of sounding remarkably ugly or otherworldly beautiful. They’ve got a bit of that transient ghostliness of Cat Power about them, and that’s pretty much where Bronwyn’s strength lies, that sort of unsettling quality of lovely yet frightening, creeping dread. The voices and guitars of Bronwyn’s best songs have a way of crawling up your spine and leaving you simultaneously on edge yet sitting sorta pretty. On their lesser songs, though, like opener “Night Pose,” the effect is not one of dread or content, but instead of precious artsiness and affectation. During such songs, the boredom and reflexive contempt that wells up within the listener can be powerful.
Such extremes are not too frequent. Most of Through the Fogs, Through the Pines is acceptable, if uninteresting, indie-rock doodling. Well, it’s acceptable if you can accept the very nature of Bronwyn’s sound, which a number of people in my household are incapable of doing. Bronwyn resembles an odd amalgamation of Modest Mouse, REM, early Sebadoh, and Beat Happening, all filtered through the overpowering influence of Mary Timony and Chan Marshall. If that sounds like something you could find yourself digging, then perhaps you might dig Bronwyn. And perhaps, in the future, when they’ve settled down some and found themselves capable of better aligning their various interests, Bronwyn can make a truly great record.