Brumes – Afterglow

Brumes is the project of Desiree Rousseau. Her music has a lilting ethereal quality and touches on elements of minimal electronic, drone, post-rock and singer/songwriter guitar based music. And while those sub-genres are not too far removed from one another, the effect of her blending of sub-genres is that she creates something familiar but hard to pin down.

The album opens with “Backward Hands”, which builds from guitar and voice and percolating bass rhythm into something almost overflowing. Rousseau frequently will use her voice as a force to steady the songs, but then the compositions progress to a point beyond their seeming constraints – it’s like a painter who paints on the canvas at first but than miraculously finds a way to create colours and lines in mid-air.

Throughout, Rousseau’s voice alternates from a steadied, minimal range style of delivery to becoming something strong and otherworldly. And what’s powerful is how she does it – a song moves along at a fairly steady pace, refraining again and again, and suddenly her voice adds a progression that gives the song a transcendent quality. For example, “The Unwavering Light” just lilts a long, a melody continuous looping – but Rousseau breaks free as the song builds to dramatic crashing cymbals and booming chords.

Another of the album’s centerpieces is “Dirty Blue”, a song that begins as a simple almost folksy piece with Rousseau singing a lovely vocal over minimal instrumentation. But midway through, the vocals are layered and the words slip away to become something more visceral and raw that sounds like an angelic choir has hi-jacked the piece. It’s a detour in one sense, but it forces the listener to live in the song and let it wash over them.

The impressive part is that “Afterglow” seems to only get better and more focused as the album progresses. It’s like Rousseau lays out her palette in those first few songs, and then pulls only the hues she needs, utilizing as few brush strokes as possible to create each song. Songs like ‘Daybreak ‘ and ‘Undone’ are examples of how well crafted Rousseau can make her songs using as few elements as possible. It’s lovely and engaging stuff that never dips in quality.

As an album, “Afterglow” is ethereal and meditative – Rousseau crafts her world for 12 songs and lets the listener join her for the duration of it all. Interestingly, the album comes to the world via the Dauw cassette label. On the one hand, “Afterglow” is a bit of an odd entry for the Dauw portfolio, given the almost pop approach to some aspects of the songs. On the other, it’s a not-far-reaching extension to see how Brumes’ use of elements of minimal electronic and drone music make her a fit for the label. Viewed from yet another lens, the songs on “Afterglow” are so charming and inviting, it’s easy to see how any label would find these songs hard to ignore.

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