Breton is about audio and audio-visual autopsy; deconstructing and re-assembling popular culture.
Borne from the squat party scene and band mastermind Roman Rappak’s formative musical experiences of post-Communist Poland pirate cassette kiosks where compilations of Portishead, NWA, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Michael Jackson were the norm, Breton initially formed to make films. But they couldn’t find easily accessible places to show them that would allow the collective to incorporate their added elements of tightly synched soundscapes and live performance. DIY New Cross club nights run by promoters with a thrillingly, anything goes attitude to booking seemed the only suitable home for what they were attempting to do, and pretty soon as their 3am slots swelled, Breton were being encouraged to release their accompanying soundtracks.
Based in The Lab, a converted Kennington bank turned creative hub where the five members now live and work, Breton are a full-time music and film-making outfit. BretonLABS is the band’s remix and music video-making moniker that has seen them work with the likes of Local Natives, Tricky, Maps & Atlases, Esben and the Witch, Temper Trap, Penguin Prison, Tom Vek, 80's Matchbox B Line Disaster and Flats.
Breton’s short films have been nominated for awards in the London Film Festival and the East London Film Festival and they have been invited by the curator of the London Film Festival to submit a 15 minute film incorporating the shorts they have made over the course of a year that document the making of their debut album, ‘Other People’s Problems’. The band will also release a music documentary ‘Naming No Names’ in 2012, for consideration in next year’s Short Film Festivals.
Breton live is an intense, hypnotic experience, as the band clad in black hoods perform to a backdrop of their films – the perfect marriage of sound and timing and rhythm and visuals – influenced by such heroes as Jonathan Glazer, Mike Leigh and Chris Cunningham.
When writing, the quintet shy away from traditional methods; preferring instead to use the sounds from their surroundings as a starting point. Creaks, squeaks, sirens, tube trains, café chatter and the hum of knackered old instruments all make it into their music. “We are interested in breaking those cycles and not to make the same sounds and chords that a million other people have made,” says Roman Rappak. “So we avoid the sounds, loops and presets that everyone else is using and go for the more unique organic sounds we can…recording in different rooms, putting things in bits of glass, mic-ing them up from different sides of the room, rough human errors and hiss and hum.”
To achieve this for self-produced debut album ‘Other People’s Problems’- a compelling mix of chopped up pop songs, unsettling hip-hop and heavy electronica – the band took their brittle, digital Lab-recordings and ran them through vintage, valved equipment in Sigur Ros’ idyllic Icelandic studios to give the record warmth and weight. Hauschka has recorded the strings and These New Puritans’ Thomas Hein and hip hop legend Harry Love have been brought in on mixing duties for three of the tracks.
The result is a technically complex but incredibly infectious record, that like Rappak’s cited influences Portishead and Quincy Jones, will speak to the masses as well as the musically cerebral and savvy. “It’s all about balance and counter-balance. We’re all used to electronic music being regimented and methodical, so being able to use these machines and make them sound organic and human really unsettles people in an interesting way. It’s the most punk thing you can do in music. “We expect machines to sound like this,” says Rappak as he continuously taps the table to a beat, “but what if we make it do this?” Irregular taps ensue. “It’s like someone threw a load of ketamine at you.”