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coverpic flag US - Washington - Full Moon 235 - 10/27/15

Broken Water
Wrought, 45s, and Seaside 2009-2015

The Olympia, Washington three-piece is a creative whirlpool of a band. Broken Water are singer/drummer Kanako Wynkoop, guitarist/vocalist Jon Hanna, and bass-player Max Gorbman (replacing long-time player Abigail 'Abby' Ingram, who is also a member of Olympia's Congratulations). When the hard/soft trio visited Oslo earlier this month (along with the legendary Calvin Johnson!), they threw a very cool show at one of Oslo's cooler venues, Ingensteds (in English: 'Nowhere') - even the bass player's girlfriend stepped in on drums for the final noise-jam finish]. Their latest album, Wrought was released earlier this year (in April, on the independent label Night People). The European release (as a 2 LP set) Wrought, 45s, and Seaside 2009-2015 holds Wrought once more, plus some extra material: songs off a couple of singles and half a 12". The hard to get stuff. A fresh breath of twee grunge pop, anyone?

Wrought was Broken Water's third full-length, following Whet (released by Night People / Radio is Down, 2010) and Tempest (released by Sub Pop's sub-label Hardly Art, 2012). The band formed in 2008, and they have been a hard working three-piece ever since. They call their music something of a mix-bag: 'punk/grunge/shoegaze'. The DIY punk is an immediate reference and the grungy pop-punk shine through, especially on Jon Hanna's songs. Kanako Wynkoop and Jon Hanna switch and share the vocal job (I guess this goes back to who's written the songs), and this works rather well. I was indeed impressed by Kanako Wynkoop's singer/drummer job in Oslo. Broken Water also stir the shoegaze dream-pop waters. Imagine My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Slowdive, yes, even Mazzy Star, but done in a far more punked and jangly way. You could also blend the music of US indie bands Unwound (yet another Olympia, WA based band) and Mark Robinson's Unrest, and you'd land somewhere near Broken Water. I also come to think of some of the bands connected to the indie scene of UK's Sarah Records back in the 80s/90s. Especially the 'twee' indie pop of Heavenly. And, yes, here's the link to/via Calvin Johnson obvious: Calvin loved Heavenly - he has even collaborated with them and released their records in the US. And; Calvin loves Broken Water. I guess Broken Water love Calvin in return. They have probably picked some inspiration and good advice (from him) on their way as well. Anyway, Wrought is a solid album, and the mix of Kanako's and Jon's songs works very well. Opener "High-Lo" is a feel-good indie-popper, while the grunge-poppy "Wasted" and "Set Free" makes me think of Nirvana. Hanna's vocals are for sure 'inspired' by, or reminiscent of Cobain. My guess is that Cobain would have loved the attitude and style, and the songs of Broken Water. "Psycho Static" is one of my favourite tracks off Wrought. It has a driving and catchy spirit, as well as very cool guitar noise. The sway and the careful pop-noise of "Close" makes this a comfortable listen and a nice little song. Shoegaze pop at its best. "Stone" is a more up-beat and bouncy track, which also works quite well. The long closing track "Beach" (12:33) shows the real shoegaze side of Broken Water, as the song unveils both the quiet, low-toned drone as well as the freak-out noise.

So, the extra songs, then. The almost early Joy Divisionesque (well, not the vocals) "Boyfriend Hole" and "Mother" (from an early 7" single, and their Demo) present a darker, more shoegaze-post-punk version of the band. "Normal Never Happened" has some bratty, punky attitude but holds some mild vocals to contrast the cocky start. The frantic drift of the former B-side (from a Fan Death Records release) "Faux King Vogue" is more appealing, making me think of some of the rougher (rock) songs from the early days of the Flying Nun label. The lengthy, over 17 minutes long "Seaside" (it's long and 'watery' just like "Beach") is taken from their Seaside & Sedmikrásky 12" (2012). It is a (too) long jam piece, but at times, it's quite cool anyway as it swaggers, rolls and strolls. Despite the charm of "Normal...", I'd say Broken Water as a band has grown since their early years. They're (according to Hardly Art) a 'sometimes noisy, sometimes droning, often pretty and subtly poppy band'. They should keep on to do so, as well as to continue their political quest. Their bandcamp-site has got the following tags: 'punk feminist grrl grunge olympia psychedelic punk queer shoegaze Olympia'. Again, over to Hardly Art, who says that Broken Water 'is very much a product of its hometown. After a number of shape-shifting releases, the band has managed the rare feat of evolution in the service of a signature sound, wild experimentation that ultimately works as a harness, locking down the music's unique and idiosyncratic internal logic.' Riot on, grrls and boys.

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