They’re fierce, inelegant and definitely capable of slicing through the silence like a hot knife through butter – the guitar parts in the new single “Crashland” by Pennan Brae play the key role they should for a contemporary indie rock song, but in some ways, theirs is made more significant because of the composition’s angular instrumental arrangement. From the get-go, nothing about “Crashland” feels smooth or designed to sport an even flow; it’s only through the ongoing crash of the guitars into the percussion that we find any sense of consistency here, and I would be lying if the unpredictable intensity wasn’t a critical turn-on.
Despite the glitzy stylization, the guitar element in this song isn’t even packing the biggest punch in terms of volume and size. While it’s undisputedly the most important melodic instrument shaping the mood of the narrative the lyrics are putting forth, the most formidable component of the grooving in “Crashland” is absolutely the drums, which assault us with more than we can handle only to casually relax as we listen on. There’s nothing restrictive about what the beat is contributing to this single – in every instance it’s afforded, the percussion is downright abusive to the harmony, leaving a brutish – but, somehow, pop-influenced – path of destruction in its wake.
The vocal Brae himself offers up in “Crashland” is almost outside of the instrumental chaos when we break down the master mix, with its position in the grander scheme of things serving to give context more than it actually colorizes any of the themes in the lyrics. Everything revolves around the relationship between the verse and the violent thrust of the collective melody behind it in this single, and as abrasive as that might be for some listeners, others like myself will get swept away by its understated adrenaline from the first play.
While I wouldn’t say the lyric video is anything above and beyond what I would want it to be, the visual component to “Crashland” absolutely makes the substance of Brae’s storytelling even more enigmatic than it already would have been (which is definitely not an easy feat by any measurement). The surrealism of this release isn’t rooted in one specific place over another, but instead forced out of every angle we face, which is a different approach than I’ve seen out of this artist’s closest competitors in the underground and mainstream the same.
Although it’s more on the compositionally experimental side than I tend to go for as a fan, Pennan Brae’s new single/video combo gives critics and listeners something very interesting to talk about this autumn without debate. “Crashland” has the right bones to attract a lot of audiences that might have been reticent to embrace the wilder side of alternative rock in 2020, and though I’m not sure whether or not it’s going to be the work to break its creator through to the primetime, it’s an entry in his discography that I would classify as one of the highlights.
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