ALBUM REVIEW: bdrmm – ‘I Don’t Know’

Artwork for bdrmm’s ‘I Don’t Know’

Shoegaze groups have been known as auteurs of the evocative. For bdrmm, upstarts since their barnstorming 2020 debut, it’s not just their growing sound palette pulling the emotional punches but also the sophomore’s collection of newfound inspirations from bands of old and touring locations anew.

The four-piece felt like a seismic surge on the genre with their semi-self-titled effort Bedroom. It was a raw, heady and powerful document that took them from humble Hull beginnings, to Radio 1 airplay, to the home of darts and musical superstardom Ally Pally, to touring with Fat White Family, Viagra Boys and Mogwai. Such was their distinctively well-honed sound that Stuart Braithwaite’s attention was bottled, keen as ever to sign bdrmm to his label Rock Action. Thus, here is the result: a further-reaching sonic experience informed by their familiar bedrooms, a Wetherby farm, and the grandeur of the Alps’ silver peaks.

There’s no better way to signal a more developed path than the picturesque alpine opener, borne from ice-clad van rides through the home of the Matterhorn and “listening to Thom Yorke’s electronic stuff”. Clearly no longer confined to some sort of ‘nü shoegaze’, the group round up flourishes of dance beats, heaps of textured synths, plinked guitars and bass slides. Vocalist / guitarist Ryan Smith has adamantly explained his love for In Rainbows, and the vast expanse of Greenwood and company follows up on Be Careful, whereby you might mistake the drum intro to be sampling Questlove from D’Angelo’s Voodoo sessions. There’s a wonderful turnout from some ‘90s trip hop too—a classy sound that they maybe could’ve doubled down on more. It carries a far less chilled vibe lyrically to the neo-soul classic, with Smith acknowledging lockdown alcohol dependence, but voicing a hopeful mantra to “be careful of yourself / prepare for something else / it’s coming…”

No doubt drummer Conor Murray’s forays into jazz greats and electronic artists fuels more of the record’s highlights, as well as an increasing fan appetite to welcome sound experiments. When standalone Thee dropped, the band were spurred on to show the latest edges to their individualistic playing, even if it just “had a piano on it”. There’s far more going on here. An almost sauntering R&B feel makes itself subtly known on Pulling Stitches, where still a tastefully squealing guitar solo is washed out by the waves of full-fat, reverbed chords bdrmm is known for. Two-year fan favourite It’s Just A Bit Of Blood rubs up arena rock riffs alongside moments of tranquil electronica and a wonderfully repeated “Where do you get off?” refrain. Central highlight We Fall Apart features dreamlike vocals over ascending, bright chords, picked-up pace, and a washed-out spoken word spack rock outro.

That’s before getting to I Don’t Know’s all-encompassing surmise: the conclusive A Final Movement. Keyboardist / bassist Jordan Smith adds some well-produced string arrangements to a plodding beat, which started life in a slowcore form. It’s hard to tell from its final evolution: the musical equivalent of its melancholic lyrical theme of “accepting the beauty of something not working out”, and plays out just as precisely and weirdly satisfying as its 08:08 track length.

As one of the UK’s most promising acts, it was a wonder what they’d do next. The final product sees their musical heroes peeking their heads out amongst vibrant walls of noise, with the quartet beginning to weave together the tapestry of noises into one complete sound that’s wholly their own invention. It’s certainly not far from being a great indietronica-shoegaze hybrid, and not many can claim to be purveyors of that, can they?

For fans of: HEALTH, My Bloody Valentine, Knifeplay

‘I Don’t Know’ by bdrmm is released on 30th June on Rock Action Records.

Words by Elliot Burr

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