The Upshot: Majestic and cinematic, eighties-esque but with a singular artistic focus.
BY FRED MILLS
Brandon Krebs is the latest in a long line of Northwest artists who confidently straddle the indie-rock and pop-centric worlds, crafting compelling, cinematic compositions that would be equally at home in a cavernous arena and the intimacy of a fan’s listening den. He previously recorded as Stranded Sullivan, and while he needn’t fret about receiving accolades under a nom du rawk instead of his given name, the talent on display here more than justifies taking full, proper credit.
Refuge in Exile—available on both digital and vinyl; trust me, you should spring for the latter, and as a bonus it arrives with a CD tucked into the sleeve should you need to transfer these nine tunes to a portable listening device—was recorded over a protracted period of time, the product of willing songcraft into being, and along the way tapping the talents of myriad musicians who clearly bought into Krebs’ sonic vision.
Highlights? “Western Medicine” has a thrumming, eighties-anthemic vibe, reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s work from that era. “Alarm Pheromones” also casts its vision back several decades, awash in majestic synth drones, heavily echoed drums, and ominous vocals. And on closing track “TS Eliot,” amid an undulating, twinned keyboard-guitar pattern, massed-chorus male/female vocals, and stately trumpet, Krebs and his ensemble wrap everything up in a sheen of optimism, cautiously prepared to move on to the next phase.
The album is subtly conceptual, with recurring chord progressions and a consistency of tone and texture (thematically, it’s an extended meditation on the pitfalls of doubt/paranoia and change enforced from the outside) that belies its two-year gestation. Ultimately, it’s the mark of an artist with an unerring ability to remain focused in order to serve the material—and the songcraft that goes into it—well.
Listen to tracks from the album at Krebs’ Bandcamp page.
DOWNLOAD: “Alarm Pheromones,” “TS Eliot”