London Brixton Mass
Their gentle rhythms could be louder but not lovelier...
There is some confusion. London’s Broken Dog, literally, look like another band. A duo they should be, comprised of angel-voiced bassist Martine Roberts and guitarist Clive Painter. Instead, they are four – and, as dedicated trainspotters of lo-fi luminaries will recognise, they are Tram.
Don’t panic. This is because Martine and Clive moonlight as members of Tram, and have borrowed two of their colleagues – drummer Nick Avery and keyboardist/guitarist Paul Anderson – to lend added resonance to their fragile, intimate sound.
It’s understandable, for even now, Broken Dog are so quiet as to be almost inaudible. The heavy thrum of Martine’s bass is the subtle lynchpin, pulsating forlornly under her ethereal vocals while the understated drone of keyboard and timid tap of the drums hum softly underneath. To mesmerising effect.
‘New Year’ trips softly like a baby ballerina in stockinged feet, Martine’s little-girl whisper contradicting her promise, “[I]I’m strong, baby, I’m not afraid any more[/I]”; and the creepy ‘In A Head’ converges on the sinister honey-and-arsenic territory of Black Box Recorder. Mostly, though, Broken Dog hover on the brink of burying themselves in layers of cascading sound [I]` la[/I] Slowdive. Only much, much quieter.
This is their only stumbling block. So close are they to complete silence that the songs are virtually indistinguishable, and the moment when soundcheck ends and gig begins is obfuscated by sleepy false starts and comparatively high-volume mutterings from the crowd.
Listen closely, however, and be patient. Broken Dog’s gentle rhythms could be louder, perhaps, but they couldn’t be lovelier.