9   +   6   =  

As he embarks on a cruise through alt-folk, indie rock and territories of a more electronic nature, what cannot be said of Rob Bravery is that he keeps it simple. An eclectic mix of sounds makes up this debut LP Esque, a difficult record that for all its unconventional genre-spanning fails to find its own unique voice. The album’s title is certainly accurate: it derives many sounds and ideas from some great artists, but just what ‘Rob Bravery-esque’ sounds like remains a mystery.

Half of Esque follows the templates of artists such as Of Monsters and Men or The Lumineers, opting for organic folk that begins with atmospheric tension and ends in a courageous amalgam of sound as it builds texturally. This is best heard on Me, Myself and the Scurvy Knave, which kicks things off in a pretty unremarkable manner before evolving into something far more expansive, with swathes of varied synth sounds piling on top of each other in a thrillingly dramatic outro.

The same structural trick is repeated on a number of records however, and it is only Broom Cupboard that manages to do so and get away with it. Knock Out Ginger is a darkly seductive track with excellently employed piano chords that work in rhythmic synchronicity with the urban sounding electronic drums. Cleaning Up is another low key number, opening with Bowie-inspired descending piano chords and a low tempo 6/8 beat. “Which one of us is truly cleaning up?” asks the Bristolian singer, and one suspects with such a heartfelt performance that he isn’t just talking about the dishes.

Elsewhere there isn’t really much to shout about. Esque could have easily been shortened to an EP with a select four of five of the strongest of this LP’s tracks. The album particularly loses momentum in its final few songs, as Remy tries and fails to create a sense of epic melancholy and the lengthy Submission Statement ploughs on for about four minutes longer than it should. One gets a sense of Bravery running out of ideas, and maybe just releasing an EP and spending more time working on his material would have been a better way of getting the best out of an artist that certainly has plenty of uncultivated talent.

Esque feels like an unfinished product. Its downfall isn’t in any major misstep, rather a lack of development and failure to deviate from a well-trodden format. Very little on here is new or original, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a debut album. Not all is lost, there are moments of brilliance on here that could point to a brighter future, but the record as a whole ultimately disappoints.

★★

Rob Bravery’s Esque was released on 20 November 2015. 

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