Album review: Bear’s Den – So That You Might Hear Me

The album cover for the new album from Bear's Den: So That You Might Hear Me.

The album cover for the new album from Bear's Den: So That You Might Hear Me. - Credit: Archant

Downbeat, synth-aided rock is fruitful ground for a fistful of first-person reflections and regrets.

The London-based duo spent a year working on their third record – a marked difference to the intense activity that birthed its mixed bag of a predecessor, Red Earth & Pouring Rain.

The good news is this time they’re mining a middle ground between the brittle uplands of electronica that dulled their last record, and the verdant alt-folk fields of their debut.

Synths are woven more tightly into the arrangements, bolstering the band’s descent into melancholy with acoustic and electric guitars, piano and drums.

The results work well, whether it be gentle, spindly harpsichord synth notes adding an atmospheric touch to the gloaming motorik and weighty regret of Fossils, or taking charge with programmed drums, beds of layered synth motifs and a kind of submarine radar in recent single Fuel On The Fire (and again in Not Every River).

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Singer Andrew Davie’s flat vocals won’t appeal to everyone but his heart-on-sleeve explorations of family bonds, failed relationships and interpersonal dynamics, united by the universal human need for connection, are a cut above the usual.

He addresses a recent ex-partner, or perhaps himself, with poetic catharsis in opening track Hiding Bottles, with allusions to drug or drink addiction and the strain it puts on a relationship, while shallow, calm pools of synths build towards the relative drama of earnest electric guitar and ominous bass drum.

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Breaker / Keeper (another hand-wringing worryfest) is a call-back to the band’s musical origins with finger-picked acoustic guitar and falling, four-note piano riff, while Crow – in which Davie grieves for a lost father figure – is suitably evocative with a soft rain of acoustic guitar notes, delicate piano and muted trumpet.

Those with the emotional strength to make it to the end are rewarded with the tempestuous drums and rousing trumpet soundtracking a bitter, broken-family row (Evangeline) and the heart-wrenching ballad Blankets Of Sorrow.

This is woe in widescreen, wrapped in poetic couplets.

3/5 stars.

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