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Breton could easily be cast as nothing but a hype machine to a wary audience. For their latest offering, War Room Stories, this South London “art collective” transited from their headquarters in a disused bank to set up and record in Berlin’s ‘Funkhaus,’ — a centre for communist propaganda during the GDR era — managing to avoid any pretentious trappings largely due to the quality of the tracks on the record.
With War Room Stories Breton have avoided the missteps of the oft-difficult sophomore album and crafted a cohesive set of songs that push the moody, cinematic sound of 2012’s Other People’s Problems to another level.
If that first album was centred on a relentless, unrestrained energy (was that really a kazoo solo in Jostle?), then the songs contained here are measured, deliberate and clear. Gone is the muffled production and bombastic noise, the leap between album number two and its forebear is obvious.
There is a distinct push towards electronics that is best illustrated in the glitchy, pulsating synths of Got Well Soon, which helps the band further distance themselves from early comparisons to the likes of Foals and Two Door Cinema Club, and benefit greatly as a result.
Opener Envy is perhaps the most buoyant and poppy track Breton have ever recorded, with an incredibly catchy chorus backed by xylophones and lush strings. Legs and Arms is punctuated with an unbridled passion thanks to the driving percussion and melancholic wails of vocalist Roman Rappak.
While the energy tapers off on the latter half of the album, the inclusion of the Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra on half the tracks highlight Breton’s willingness to bring a new dimension to their sound. This experimentation, combined with a more refined production and singular focus, gives War Room Stories an air of maturity that meets the expectations mandated by their previous output.