Broken Water’s Latest Release: Anything but a Traditional “Album”

Olympia, Washington’s Broken Water has been self-releasing music since early 2009. The three-piece outfit has a few EPs, singles, and LPs under its belt, and today, Broken Water is releasing a powerful two-track, 31-minute record called Seaside and Sedmikrásky. The release is an anomaly in today’s music world, as each track is really more of a musical epic with its own evolving plot.

Part one of the release, “Seaside,” is inspired by the book, “In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost,” by Dr. Gabor Mate, in which Mate discusses the causes and consequences of various forms of human addiction. The band’s bassist, Kanako Pooknyw, says the book inspired her to write “a bass line that hopes to float around the voids of the hungry ghosts in Olympia.”

“Seaside” is a spacey, slow-moving creeper of a song that slumps along with strung-out guitar riffs and gloomy cello. The piece begins with distant clanking, escalating guitar and eventual drums. The sound builds and builds before introducing background vocals with lyrics that can’t be understood and aren’t meant to be understood–they’re merely crafting the mysterious, elusive mood of the song. There are awkward parts in “Seaside” where things stop and pick up a few times around the 11-minute mark, but the pauses are tucked nicely inside parts of pounding drums and cello that sounds like beautifully bending metal. The cellist is Lori Goldston, a friend of the band’s from Seattle who channeled “lost whales, deep dark undertows of solo guitars, and the subtle and not so subtle distortions of reality” while recording, according to the band. Goldston only needed one listen of “Seaside” before she walked into Portland’s Buzz or Howl Studios and nailed the recording.

Part two/track two is a wide-ranging musical voyage that is named after a famous film from the prominent Czechoslovak new-wave feminist director, Věra Chytilová. The film is a 1966 work titled “Sedmikrasky” (which means “daisies” in English) where two teenage girls both named Marie decide the world is bad, so they should also therefore be “bad”–a decision that leads to self-destruction and public disorder wherever they go. Broken Water takes this notion and expresses it quite seriously in the song “Sedmikrasky”: “We were riding a magical wave to Psychodelia (that is a real place) when we recorded this,” Pooknyw explains.

Photo by Jessica Orr

“Sedmikrasky” features Pooknyw on upright piano and drums, and band members Abby Ingram and Jon Hanna on guitar and bass respectively. The noisy trio grinds guitar upon guitar against throbbing drums and piano, almost sounding as if they’re crushing massive ancient boughs until the occasional cymbal interrupts the madness and reminds you you’re just listening to music–you’re not really stuck in a bad dream.

The song ends with a light, fluttering piano solo paired against bass–a pretty sarcastically positive ending considering the track’s premise, although it’s not surprising considering the Czech film’s plot. In the film, the teenage girls decide to go back and make everything right again, yet a colossal chandelier ends up crushing them.

At the end of the month, Broken Water will be releasing its first record with Sub Pop’s sister label, Hardly Art. Tempest is a 10-track post-punk, no-wave, grunge, and shoegaze album the band also recorded with Stan Wright at Buzz and Howl. Foreseeably, Tempest is an album with specific influences, such as Russian punk-rock poets, the ocean, drowning, the Occupy movement, nightmares, dreams, substances, and others. The album will be out May 29.
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