Birthmarks – ‘…And Then the Rain Stopped’

By Fiachra Johnston

There’s something to be said for a good genre fusion between rock and electronic, though neither side will be the first to admit it (until someone figures out how to create the perfect death metal-techno album, the eternal war between metalheads and ravers will continue). Some of the most lauded bands of the last decade have thrived through pushing the boundaries of how acoustic and electric interweave. So when a new kid on the block makes the claim they’ve produced a unique spin on the fusion, it’s hard not to have your curiosity piqued just a little. Birthmarks are a London-based band making just such a claim with their debut record, and while rocky in places, ‘…And Then The Rain Stopped’ supports their bold statement quite well.

‘How Do You Rule Me’ instantly sets the tone for the album, a strange-yet-sweet mix of electronica that backs ethereal vocals and heavy guitar lines, while ‘Midnight Blue’ is something of a neon trip, with a blood pumping electronic bassline that feels like the soundtrack to a club shootout, John Wick style. These two songs feel like Birthmarks’ thesis statement, their proclamation of what they want their baseline sound to be, before ‘Wax’ changes up the flow somewhat with an acoustic lamentation of a tune. This marks something of a turn for the rest of the album as it moves more and more into a sombre vibe with ‘You Are One’, which possesses a cracking Tears For Fears-esque synth line. The electronica elements of all of these shine through particularly strongly. There will be obvious comparisons to be made through bands like Portishead and Vex Red, but it’s not quite as pronounced. Despite the booming basslines and shrill synth sections, there’s a subtlety present, a restraint that leaves you wanting more. It’s both a blessing and a curse, however, at times it feels like the band are subduing themselves rather than going all out.

This second half shows a little more experimentation with ‘Night After Night After Night’, with little tinges of Britpop bleeding through the cracks of its broody atmosphere. ‘Pale’, too, hosts a darker, but playful tone through its guitar section and strangely endearing xylophone-like backing. The change in style, and in how they direct themselves, shows the band are still trying to pin down their own sound, and while this makes for some interesting experiments – such as the bass-driven ‘Eclipse (Empty Shell), which explodes into a torrent of guitar shreds by the end – it also leaves for a somewhat directionless album at times. Everything here is solidly produced and Birthmarks are able to consistently weave electronica throughout their work while balancing it with some killer vocals and instrumentation, but it doesn’t feel like the group have quite nailed down their preferred style just yet.

 ‘… And Then The Rain Stopped’, is a commendable first leap for the electronica-tinged outfit. It does feel like there’s some missed opportunity from its lack of focus, but despite it, the potential for them to refine their sound in the future warrants excitement. It’s a fun listen that Birthmarks have made a statement with and planted their flag – we can only hope they follow up soon.

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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