28 Feb 2022 - Ben
Rock / Post Punk | Wharf Cat Records | Release date: 25 Feb 2022 | Favorite song: Little Wars
Brooklyn’s post-punk three-piece get personal with this six-track EP of off-kilter stories viewed through a camera lens. Each tale is woven from spacious, dark instrumentation, the minutiae of feelings and interactions, and Reid Bateh’s rich growl.
This is their second attempt at the record. Immediately after releasing their last album, Stray, in February 2020, a world-event-that-shall-remain-nameless closed almost everything down. Twin brothers, Reid and Blaze Bateh, and childhood friend William Brookshire, were located in different parts of the US, forcing them to record separately for their follow-up. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out and the record was scrapped. They decided to reconvene in New York City and move the band’s sound in a new, more fresh direction. The result is Love on My Mind, and what a result!
For this record, the band chose to bring in some friends to help widen the sonic spectrum, namely Jason Disu on trombone, Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers) on saxophone, and vocalists Bria Salmena (Orville Peck/Frigs) and Drew Citron (Public Practice). The addition of extra personnel on this record lends a richer tonal palette and brings greater depth to the songs.
Album opener, “Slither in the Rain”, tells the tale of a man broken by lost love, spending his time beside a runway, throwing cans at landing planes and dancing “In a drunken figure eight”. Driving bass introduces an eighties-style synth as Reid introduces the character – possibly a glimpse of a future beckoning for one of the other protagonists on the EP?
Bambara wear their influences on their sleeves - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The National, Afghan Whigs. With this album, they’re looking at life from the gutter and reporting what they see. “Point and Shoot” sees the narrator reminiscing over some photos and recalling the circumstances surrounding each of them in an almost spoken-word format. The rhythm of the words works perfectly with the grinding bass and eerie, slightly jarring, guitar.
The dynamics between the music and the lyrics hit perfectly, being sparse and skeletal at the right points before building to a fury, such as in album closer, “Little Wars”. Bateh snarls the opening lines like he despises them, while a synth picks out just a couple of notes, before recalling happy times in the relationship. Towards the end, Drew Citron’s hypnotic, soothing refrain floats over Bateh’s verbal self-flagellation, while the instrumentation builds into a typhoon of sound. It works incredibly well.
Love on My Mind seems to be a reflection on a lost relationship, where key moments are replayed as scenes, such as the first meeting, making love “to a choir of screeching sunrise trains”, a train ride and a car crash, recounted conversations, and words long regretted. The band have grown in confidence with this record – lyrically, musically, and thematically – and the result is a fine album that has real heart.