London electronica band Breton are an outfit that haven't yet garnered widespread acclaim, but you get the sense that it's not far off. Emerging in 2010 with the instantly captivating Counter Balance EP on Untold's Hemlock Recordings, they have been nothing but consistent since, delivering an excellent debut album Other People's Problems earlier this year.
Coming across like a more bombastic, more electronically-minded Foals, this highly creative collective combine a multitude of synths, guitars, drums and visuals with their yearning vocals to great effect. Having witnessed one of their frenzied live shows in a small pub at Brighton's new music showcase The Great Escape last year, I was intrigued to see how they would handle the mid-sized confines of London's Scala.
Low-key would be one way of describing the band's demeanour: The quintet made their entrance with minimal fuss and kept the between-song banter to a minimum. The most we got out of them was the news that the South London building they live in is soon to be bulldozed and that it's a hive of creative talent where they've made many a close friend.
Their set built slowly; at first more wistful and not in search of epic moments or reactions. From more ostensibly indie sounds, the three synths on stage began to become more prominent as they moved through their hour on stage. "Edward the Confessor" upped the drama factor with its tense piano stabs and tortured lead vocals, while "Interference" showed their way with bigger vocal hooks. They were at their best when they sang in unison, harmonising and cascading their vocals atop each other; but somehow the mesmerising effect laid down on their numerous EPs and album didn't quite come to life—almost as though the mics weren't loud enough. It was frustrating, as it's one of their defining qualities, and it didn't feel accurately conveyed at this gig.
Nonetheless, as the energy continued to swell, the band came to life. The bleepy synth intro of "Jostle" gave way to a beautifully structured track with powerful, sophisticated songwriting that the likes of The Maccabees might admire. The five-piece swapped instruments towards the end, the intensity building through gruff electro basslines, crisp chords and cinematic samples. Set closer "December" sounded resplendent, laden with horn and string samples that wouldn't be amiss in a Primo production. While I didn't experience the up-close intensity of that intimate Brighton gig, I witnessed an extremely talented band comfortably handling themselves, and showing that they can cut it live almost as well as they can in the studio.