It is rare for a debut LP to maintain a thematic soundscape without it stumbling into sounding samey, but somehow, vowelly-challenged Yorkshire quintet bdrmm have delivered it.
Bedroom is 40-odd minutes of massive, shifting noise that builds and intertwines songs without drowning them. Formed by songwriter Ryan Smith, originally as a solo project, the band includes Ryan’s brother Jordan on bass, Joe Vickers on guitar, Danny Hull on synths and drummer Luke Irvin.
Their delay-drenched dreampop had already been making waves when they released their debut EP If Not, When? on Sonic Cathedral last year, with their single ‘A Reason To Celebrate’ remixed by Ride’s Andy Bell. Bedroom feels less like a first album and more like an emphatic confirmation of a shy whispered promise.
Opening instrumental ‘Momo’ skips straight into the pairing of panning synths and twangy, single-coil guitar lines that form the frontage of bdrmm’s wall of noise. Thankfully, it doesn’t invoke the memory of the 2019 meme of the same name that scared Facebook Maws across the globe into sharing pictures of a scary doll in order to avoid the influence of scary dolls. Not sonically, at least.
The crossfade from ‘Momo’ into ‘Push / Pull’ recalls MBV’s genre-defining Loveless, and the track itself unashamedly flaunts its influences like a football scarf made of peacock feathers. There are prominent echoes of The Cure and Slowdive, as the track pounds through its snare-dependent intro and continues with a yelp of yearning and regret.
Recent single ‘A Reason to Celebrate’ moves smoothly from the chopping, clean guitar in the intro to its dizzying, swelling verses and a swaying anthemic chorus that repeats without outstaying its welcome. Of all the songs on this album, this is perhaps the one that would work best on its own in a playlist rather than as part of the larger whole.
The guitar line in the verses of ‘Gush’, resplendent with reverb and overlapping delay effects, deservedly occupies the middle of the mix in an eighties-tinged track that recalls The Chameleons. Lyrically, simple phrases expressing regret and remorse grab the attention and eventually hang wounded in the mouth of those singing along to themselves.
Uptempo, if not entirely upbeat, ‘Happy’ hangs on a simple and bewitching hook. It’s easy to imagine someone thrashing around an empty room to this, all flailing arms, earnest facial expressions and private abandonment.
‘Happy’ was originally meant to segue into its sister track ‘(Un)Happy’, with the instrumental that was supposed to bridge the two becoming ‘(The Silence)’. This starts with a descending tremolo guitar and sounds like it lives inside a piece of factory machinery, albeit the most organic piece of factory machinery since the semi-human paper shredder, something that doesn’t exist but about which I once had a particularly vivid nightmare.
‘(Un)Happy’ is a masterful, moody instrumental with heavy Mogwai hints. Its plodding tempo and move from relative quiet to swirling layers of noise are all topped off with a semi-buried sample of a Megabus driver.
Despite the album very much sounding like one fluid piece of work rather than a collection of songs strung together, that’s not at the expense of the craft of the individual tracks. And, although I’ve been merrily playing every old guy’s favourite game of Spot-The-Influence, bdrmm have really managed to make the record’s sonic palette entirely their own.
‘If….’ introduces a fuzz guitar tone which is noticeably rougher than elsewhere on the record, making the quieter vocal parts of the song all the more affecting. Lyrically, the song is essentially one extended sentence spread across almost five minutes, and that just accentuates the song’s organic seeming structure.
‘Is That What You Wanted to Hear?’ features a shiny, repeating guitar line with the simplicity and directness of a nursery rhyme. This gives way to squalls of noise filling the mix, with the intensity of a teased demon being let out of a box to get its fill of general demonry before being shut away again with minimal fuss.
Closing track ‘Forget the Credits’ anchors itself to a suitably stuttering low BPM and reaches levels of guitar reverb usually reserved for episodes of the last series of Twin Peaks. It’s a slightly disorientating end to a journey of noisy, emotional expression, but it pulls down a figurative curtain so tangible that you can almost feel its swaying crushed velvet.
I’m very likely to play this record to death. It’s short on gimmicks and postmodern knowingness and full to the brim of wide-eyed honesty, cascading soundscapes and raw, open emotion. I suspect their second album will probably move into differing musical territories but Bedroom is the sound of bdrmm in 2020, and it’ll be the platinum standard their future work is measured against.