Band: Betrayal at Bespin
Genre: Rock, Ambient, Film, post-metal, post-rock, progressive
Band introduction: What began as a recording project for a few of its members later emerged as a full-blown band of seven. Their music draws influence from various sources and genres including metal, post-rock and film music and invests in moods and atmospheres. Betrayal at Bespin is constantly evolving and always looking in new directions. – Taken from the band’s Bandcamp page.
1st Listen: As soon as you hear a Sax on any piece of music whether it’s Pop, Grindcore, Crunk, whatever; it’s suddenly jazz. Even if it’s not jazz in the slightest! “Oooh Jazz”, I thought, after the first few bars of the first song came and went. Betrayal at Bespin do not describe themselves as Jazz, but there is certainly something “jazzy” in the mix.
Moods and atmospheres are what Betrayal at Bespin are all about. By half way through the second track I’m with them. It is filmatic post-rock that moves you through scenes in a movie. No I don’t know the story they’re telling; yes I’m with them every step of the way.
And no, I don’t know if filmatic is an actual word.
This album, so far, successfully mixes different genres without jarring the listener by throwing influences around and hoping that they stick. That is the sign of good old intelligent song writing.
2nd Listen: I am on a pier; not sure where, but the breeze is calm and the waves are lapping quietly. I am alone, waiting for something. Someone pulls up in a black car, I am pulled in and the car speeds off. I am sitting in the back seat; you cannot see who is with me. It has started to rain, and I am unfazed by my situation. The car is speeding around the wet streets, heading for an unknown destination. It stops.
That was “Strange Days”, setting the scene. I don’t know where this is going, if I described every track in this way it would make for a disjointed mess. My point is that this music takes you places. “Cherbourg” plays with tension, building and releasing me as it progresses. However it doesn’t have those definite moments that are so prevalent in post-rock, where a definite crescendo is approached and delivered.
The sound of the ocean ends this track and crosses over into the next track “Atlantic”. There is an overall theme of the sea, rain, water etc. throughout this album. Why not, it is such a majestic thing, the ocean; mysterious and compelling. Just like this music. “Atlantic” has moments that remind me of Sigur Ros and the introduction of a trumpet towards the end is utterly triumphant.
“She had a death wish” is a slow interlude with crashing percussion that adds depth to the simple slide guitar (I think) part and then “Slow Dance” re-introduces a sax to give an, almost seedy, jazz feel. The lyrics talk of watching the rain fall and the music paints a picture of those peaceful moments where you find yourself in quiet company, watching the droplets run down the window. It picks up about half way through, showing the beginnings of some metal influence, but with the sax screaming over the top as the rain turns to a storm.
“Marie Celeste” is as lonely and as desolate as the ship itself. A haunting piano part becomes that of a horror film and the drums and stringed instruments build the atmosphere of being alone and uncertain. “This place is death” builds on this with lyrics of being alone in the sea and images of drowning. The guitar parts and vocals have a Pink Floyd feel to them.
“My hands are on fire” is an unexpected turn of events incorporating screamed vocals. They fit perfectly though and don’t ruin the cohesion with the rest of the album. This track drives to the end with monotonous drums and guitar; the calm, lonely trumpet that starts “Ocean rain” is a welcome break. It almost signals that the end is approaching and the longest track on the album “MoonRiver” is the end. Jazzy saxophones supporting by simple guitar and drums sound like reflection. The lyrics are a reflection, almost like a spoken monologue:
“Now everything is cold, white, and silver;
But in those golden days in the sun I breathe like she breathes.
I touch the back of her neck and fall to pieces
‘cause once there was a way to get back home.”
Halfway through the track it breaks and becomes something reminiscent of 70’s progressive rock as a synth takes the lead and finally the music comes to a halt.
3rd Listen: You can probably tell that I couldn’t wait to listen to this again. I did wait though and spinning this again is an absolute joy. What astounds me most is the seamless use of different influences but without compromising the integrity of the compositions. I tag these blogs with the genres taken from the band’s Bandcamp and usually I cringe at the scattered number of genres the band thinks they fit into. In this case Betrayal at Bespin have got it almost spot on, save that they missed out jazz.
Or is that just because they have a sax?
Conclusion: Rains is an album that you need to sit back and listen to. This is far from background music. It is completely immersive; complex, yet beautiful. It takes you places that you may never have been to and will want to continue visiting for a long, long time. Do not miss out on this.
- First Impression: Good
- Final Impression: Good