Usually when we say that tracks on an album blend to form one piece, we say it with a critical disposition at mind. Tracks are too repetitive or simply not interesting enough to stand on their own. However, there are exceptions to this rule, albums whose cohesion is simply a part of what they are, melding all tracks into one, big tapestry. Gates‘s newest album, Bloom & Breathe, is such an exception. Tracks quote each other and the emotionally intense vocals throughout serve as an irresistible second thread which runs through the entire piece. Instead of creating a repetitive mess, we are instead treated to an album that breathes on its own, with its own message and direction.
The secret lies in the duality present in both the vocals and the instrumentals, one belied by the album name. It’s best to describe Gates’s sound on this album as an amalgamation between post-rock and melodic hardcore. If that sounds weird, it should; it’s hard to think of another who would deserve this moniker. But Gates earn it and earn it well. The instruments at times are dreamy and delay-pedalled, creating the breathy, dreamy sound-scapes of the post rock we cited earlier. The guitars are especially reminiscent of sounds that might be found on sleepmakeswaves albums or even on certain This Will Destroy You creations.
Meanwhile, the other side of the coin kicks and kicks hard. Aided mostly by the extremely compelling vocals that are the band staple, the faster paced riffing on tracks like ‘The Thing That Would Save You’ or ‘Bloom’ lay beautifully on top the more ephemeral orchestrations. The power of this maneuver lies in avoiding what lesser bands would naturally do: it would make more sense to separate the two sounds into different tracks and then go back and forth throughout the album. Instead of doing that however, a move which would make this just another pensive hardcore album, Gates do not shirk from tackling both sounds at the same time. This creates immense emotional depth.
The tracks that most exemplify this hybrid sound are found near the end of the album. ‘Low’ is a perfect example. Throughout the track, near the end of the album as we said, heady guitars sing in the background. The vocals and drums however are punchy as can be, the cymbals echoing out aside the soaring melodies. The track ends by giving the guitars their due space, focusing on the line we heard through out the track. With the next track, ‘Again At The Beginning’, a different tool is borrowed from post rock and that is the build up and ultimate crescendo. Starting off low, the track builds up tempo near the middle part only to erupt into over the top choir singing near the end.
End of the day, this mix is pulled off beautifully and creates a powerful record. Gates could easily have botched this dangerous experiment in genre modification but have instead clutched victory from the face of danger. Bloom & Breathe also has a layer completely independent of any intellectual analysis we might have attempted here: something about its raw energy, mainly contained in the vocals, simply reaches into your stomach and twists. Hit play on this record for an emotional roller-coaster where the stops aren’t clearly marked and the bends go in directions you wouldn’t expect.
Gates’s Bloom & Breathe gets…