- Mon, 2011-06-06 16:23
Phil and Danny Brookes are Brookes Brothers, producers of ultra-slick, melody-rich drum and bass who have been walking the line between the underground and the mainstream over the last couple of years. Signed to Adam F and DJ Fresh’s Breakbeat Kaos label, the duo flirted with the big time back in ’08 when a series of tracks and remixes brought them wider press attention. Rather than trying to capitalise by rushing an album out, however, the boys wisely decided to take their time, building their reputation further in the scene whilst working on perfecting their debut.
That debut has now been deemed ready for release and, much like their career in recent years, it has one eye on the commercial market but does things on its own terms. Big vocal hooks frequently crop up across the album, giving an extra, accessible edge to songs that – though undoubtedly strong – might not otherwise attract the less ardent drum and bass fan. Album opener Beautiful, for example, supplements its subtle strings, hands-in-the-air pianos and huge drops with a captivating, soulful vocal from house-legend Robert Owens. Similarly, Tear You Down (the single that first got them mainstream attention in ’08) owes its euphoric atmosphere in no small part to the echoing vocal sample that writhes at its centre. While those two songs are clearly improved by their vocals, they could survive without them; the same can not be said for Last Night. With the vocal included it propels one along with a soft insistence, but without there would be little to recommend it, and it would be a pleasant but unremarkable marriage of synth-and-breaks, much like later track Snowman.
These more straightforward, commercial moments are very enjoyable, but it’s when the boys try something a little more adventurous that they really hit their stride. Paperchase - a collaboration with Danny Byrd - is a playful blend of disco strings and Daft Punk vocoders that provokes a big grin, while Not Just Yet tip-toes towards its first drop through a web of funky bass, cascading melodies and warm slabs of synths, proving that Brookes Brothers’ craftsmanship is up there with the best of them. In Your Eyes even sees the duo try their hand at dubstep, taking a wonderfully sunny sample of reggae legend Johnny Osbourne and treating its relaxed skank to a dose of towering bass and half-step beats, and with great effect.
Warcry and Daybreak are the real standouts though. The former builds its breaks out of Indian tablas and features Hindustani vocals by the Bombay-based group Advaita, as well as snippets of Sarangi (an Indian stringed instrument), thereby recalling the work of the master of dub-fusion, The Rootsman. Daybreak, on the other hand, is a beautifully arranged, post-club track with hints of Moderat to it. Tasha Baxster’s gentle vocals glide past luxuriant strings and sparkling synths as the bass and beat keep the momentum going without rushing away with things.
Brookes Brothers strike a good balance on their debut album. There are simple, mainstream-ready tunes that, though tried-and-tested in their basic formulae, still have enough panache to excite, and there are more individual-sounding moments that are pleasing in their novelty. The two categories blend well together, thanks largely to the duo’s highly skilful production, making for an album that is capable of challenging without leaving anyone behind.