Bleeding Heart Narrative
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Bleeding Heart Narrative

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Bleeding Heart Narrative - Bison EP"

London sextet Bleeding Heart Narrative are set to release their first EP Bison with Brainlove Records, following up last year’s Tongue Tangled Hair.

Known for their deft ability to take pop structures and shape them around minimal electronica, melodic vocal harmonies and lush string arrangements, Bison follows suit, but what perhaps seems most surprising on an initial listen is the light feel of this latest effort. It is still undeniably the work of Oliver Barrett and his cohorts and yet it’s as if the cobwebs have been pulled away to reveal the melodic, almost lighthearted pop at its centre. Through thick instrumentation that builds to anthemic climaxes, as on track two ‘HAL Passes the Turing Test’, where clapping drumstick, male/female harmonies and circular arpeggios on strings build up to a more guitar based break down of crashing symbols and thrashing guitar, they use their vast array of influences from the traditional to the genre breaking to their advantage.

Blending a mix of post-rock, instrumentals and bold vocals they at times draw comparisons to Arcade Fire, and on ‘Mysterious Cults’ particularly. However it’s something in the way BHN build and construct around a single opening note that sets them against many of their contemporaries. Intensely listenable with an ear for a melody the vocals on Bison feel summery and joyous, while the percussion pertains a kind of celestial beauty that flits from the subtle to the raucous with a simple slight of hand. ‘Mysterious Cults’ ends in a spookish, unsettling crescendo of white noise, which bleeds seamlessly into ‘Ghost Cats Disappear into the Night’; a haze of static and metallic sounds of ear piercing percussion and strings that make way for the core acoustic melody and a hushed, barely audible female mantra slowly revealing itself to repeat again and again the song’s title. It’s the closer however that truly encapsulates all they have created and all they musically stand for: electronic opening, immaculate layering of choruses of vocals led by violin and cello in place of the traditional guitar set up. It’s a shame it’s over all too soon.

Bleeding Heart Narrative, now after five releases have surely succeeded in creating a sound entirely their own, playing off the beautiful and haunting, while mixing a stirring ambiance with an vibrant, paean immediacy. As Bison plays out it becomes darker, dirgier towards its midpoint, finding a way to balance all the opposites it employs to create what is ultimately a warm and celebratory sound. - Folk Radio

"Huw Stephens...on seeing Bleeding Heart Narrative live at Shhh! 2011"

Intensely good! - Twitter

"Bleeding Heart Narrative - Tongue Tangled Hair"

Tartaruga Records is fast becoming my favourite record label. First they gave us the mind-bendingly brilliant My Sister, Boudicca by Quinta, and now this, the second album from Oliver Barrett, aka Bleeding Heart Narrative.

Right from the opening harmonium chord you know this is going to be a beautiful record. And when At The End Of It All builds to its blissful crescendo of clattering drums, graceful strings, tremolo guitars and playful electronics you know that Bleeding Heart Narrative is going to live up to his name. The majority of this album is graceful, majestic, droney and downright gorgeous in the way that Sigur Rós were before the BBC made them famous, and the way that Godspeed You Black Emperor were. Yes indeed, this is the music of a bleeding heart.

Make no mistake though, Barrett is not just copying these groups, he is an incredibly gifted musician in his own right. The string arrangements at the start of Tilted The Wall reminded me of Ravel’s string quartet pieces, and the moment when the looped, overdubbed vocals of Henry Box Brown get swallowed up by strings and bass is positively breathtaking. When Barrett makes the leap into singing, his melodies sound instantly familiar and classic – David Foster Wallace in particular could be mistaken for an English folk tune.

However, Tongue Tangled Hair is by no means a perfect album. As irrefutably stunning as all the dramatic bittersweet melancholy is, after a while the Bleeding Heart Narrative formula is revealed: start with a drone, most likely with some sort of noisy electronics, fade up some pretty melody on a piano, guitar or somesuch, establish a theme before building to melodramatic but wonderful coda. Repeat.

Having said that, formulas aren’t necessarily a bad thing – the 12 bar blues is still kicking and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It is after all, a rather elegant formula and it makes departures from it all the more impressive: when after 3 minutes of drone and faraway vocal harmonies on A Dialogue an actual beat and a song came in, I was absolutely floored.

Barrett may not be quite as inventive as his labelmate Quinta, but this album shows he is an absolute master of uplifting melancholy.
- Got is in the TV

"Bleeding Heart Narrative - Tongue Tangled Hair"

Hot on the heels of the collaborative effort with Gosia Winter comes album number two from Oliver Barrett aka Bleeding Heart Narrative.
Although essentially the vision of one man; the sound of Bleeding Heart Narrative is vast, with songs often comprising of piano, string arrangements, electronic noise, and choir harmonies. Barrett’s not just a mendacious knob twiddler though, his project Bleeding Heart Narrative is almost an orchestral endeavor.
Those who discovered BHN through his debut album All That Was Missing We Never Had in the World will not be disappointed with Tongue Tangled Hair. If anything, the way Barrett has honed his craft will only further enrapture you to his significant charms. Those discovering Bleeding Heart Narrative for the first time are in for a considerable treat.

The droning introduction of ‘At The End of It All’ is a slow burn admittedly, but the building patterns that drift from the maudlin sighs of the harmonium begin to mount with dramatic effect. Chuck in a swelling orchestra and it’s not long before the hairs on the back of your neck are standing to attention and there’s a lump in your throat. This is poignant stuff, of that there is no doubt. Bleeding Heart Narrative treads the line between classical and post rock so carefully that genre definitions are completely blown out of the water at times – all that matters when these songs get hold of you is emotion.

The clever use of strings and heavily delayed/manipulated guitars mean that the first points of reference are those of Sigur Rós and perhaps Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-La Band. When Barrett adds a vocal element to proceedings he flavours the songs with elements of rustic folk music and Gregorian chants. It’s a broad palette that he employs, but the urge to mix everything into a brown fudge of noise is something that is sidestepped beautifully.
‘The Cartographer’ is the closest thing you’ll find to a definite pop song here. With a strong vocal sounding as if it’s been recorded in an abbey to the fore, it ensnares you from the start. This is an unusual stylistic choice for Barrett as he normally builds the instrumental melody to a crescendo before allowing the vocals to add texture. Where ‘The Cartographer’ succeeds is by allowing the vocals to lead the song and then building the crescendos around it but still allowing the voice to be the dominant force. It’s a truly stunning piece of music that soars away, taking you with it. He might be singing about giant skulls, but skulls are beautiful things too, particularly when they’ve got a soundtrack like this.

Tongue Tangled Hair is a more consistent record than its predecessor. Barrett appears to have refined his technique, meaning that these songs are far easier to associate with. His arrangements may follow the basic, “start quiet and build from there” model established by countless post-rock bands, but his penchant for bombast and warmth means that generally these songs manage to reach right into your chest and cause your heart to flutter.

The folk inflected David Foster Wallace might not be to everyone’s taste, but the sorrowful thrum of the cellos makes it irresistible, even if it is hard to shake the image of Barrett dressed as an extra in the Wicker Man in order to deliver his vocal. The quiet/loud formula is nicely exploited as the song reaches its climax. It doesn’t so much build as explode in volume. For a few moments, Bleeding Heart Narrative becomes uncharacteristically terrifying.

Tongue Tangled Hair is a stunning record, and one that finds Barrett in sensational form. When it is performed live there won’t be a dry eye in the house, and when they play David Foster Wallace, there’ll be a fair few damp seats too
- The Line of Best Fit

"Bleeding Heart Narrative - Tongue Tangled Hair"

Wandering through Bleeding Heart Narrative's blog in search of evidence, we learn that they are inspired by such aspects of existence as 'cheap red wine and frantic conversation,' 'the lump in your throat,' 'crying till you're spent,' 'the minor rush from the first drink when everything is all possibility,' and so on. All of which leads the listener to expect that Tongue Tangled Hair is likely to be just a tiny bit earnest. This is an album that seems to want nothing less than to commune with humanity; to enter the intangible and create a connection between something beautifully everyday and achingly fundamental.
Tongue Tangled Hair certainly proves that Oliver Barrett is a fabulous and unique musician. He plays with command and empathy, while the production shimmers with ethereal brightness, all empowered by superb command of dynamics. Barrett has more tools at his disposal than seems strictly fair, with his soft, lilting voice; pleasantly tipsy approach to melody; folk instrumentation – including resonating Bartokian piano; intelligent use of samples, synths, reverb and delay; and, of course, the all-pervading strings, fronted by the supremely characterful cello. With them he can do Do Make Say Think; he can do Múm; he can do AMM. He can even do sparse, droneless arrangement, as in the opening of 'Tilted the Wall', where the brevity of the pizzicato notes is brought into yet sharper relief by contrast with what precedes them. The whole thing is pulled off with an enviable sense of beauty and dense, inspired musicality.
It is his fondness for drones, more than any other aspect of his sound, that pushes Barrett into the realm of post rock. They certainly dominate the record, in huge lush washes that pulsate and drive – until, by about half way through 'A Dialogue', you, and the imagined band of musicians, feel almost drone-drunk; certainly disorientated and a bit seasick.
It's this utterly immersive experience that is possibly the album's greatest strength. But might it not be just a little bit too easy to make drone-based composition seem imbued with meaning and sincerity? Drones appear to almost naturally give rise to emotions of foreboding, hope and an overarching sense of instant nostalgia. This is arguably a key factor in the success of post rock as a genre, but one is often left wondering if it isn't all a bit of a magician's trick. And if in searching for answers we are drawn instead to lyrics, in this case they are reverbed out of reach. Tongue Tangled Hair is musically sumptuous and highly arresting. But can it really recreate those micro-moments from Barrett's blogged list of inspirations?
- The Quietus

"Album of the Week"

Well the last Bleeding Heart Narrative CD was a monster hit for us, many, many months ago and now 'Tongue Tangled Hair' is a fresh offering from Oliver Barrett & friends so 'tis time to get proper excited!! Beginning tentatively with stately organ drone switching into a choral barbershop piece with charming minimal percussion, that then blossoms into an ominous Animal-Collective-gone-shoegaze epic into neo classical chamber minimalism - all beautiful sustained droning notes giving way to emotive post-rock arpeggios and heartfelt vocals that burst open into widescreen symphonic strings! Then you're treated to some curious interludes ranging from the bizarre & experimental to the heart meltingly sublime! I'll leave the rest of the album for your individual exploration - my words are only intended to give you a brief suggestion of the bountiful treats on offer here - but I gotta say this is shaping up to be something absolutely amazing by the sound of it! I hear a greater use of vocals (he has a very dreamy, soulful voice!) is evident plus a sonically rich palette of acoustics & beautiful string arrangements make this a startlingly assured record! What a talent, this man and his players truly deserve your undivided love & attention!! Album Of The Week anyone? - Norman Records

"Dolly By Bleeding Heart Narrative"

Bleeding Heart Narrative sure sound like they ought to be a serious band, don’t they? And Dolls, a careful, sparse, tender song would back up that assessment. The song is wordless, and feels like a coda to a song that has never existed – almost an afterthought, albeit one that swells beautifully and ends with a beautiful flourish.
Wordless songs fall into two categories – the wholly dispensable, or the utterly necessary. Dolls, gentle and sinewy, falls into the latter.
The difficulty is that now I’m picturing Bleeding Heart Narrative getting up to all sorts of zany japes, as if to mentally disprove any thoughts I had of po-facedness. Heck, I bet they’re playing reciting lines from The Naked Gun to one another right now. Surely not.
- A New Band A Day

"Bleeding Heart Narrative - Perun"

Bleeding Heart Narrative's latest single 'Perun' balances the electronic and the orchestral succinctly. Opening with the almost flatline sound of a monotone synth, he and his cohort of musicians who feature; layer shuffling beats, the buzzing of cello strings, a muted clapping of symbols and repeated lyrics to create a rich cloak of sound both gothic and strangely hopeful.
Launching the single at Union Chapel's Daylight Music event on the 11th December and playing with additional string players, the recording successfully captures the grandeur of these sounds when brought to life. Their's is a sonic creation that is epic and symphonic.
The lyrics, while sparse enough to remain a little shrouded in mystery, contemplate a superior and infinite being: ‘Perun’ in fact referring to a semi-forgotten god from Slavic mythology. Smartly coupling the thick sounds and intricate riffs upon which these words are layered serves to compliment the majestic figure depicted; though while the lyrics, almost a poetic verse, give some hint as to the tale, it is the instrumentation that more deftly captures the awe, terror and mystery inspired by this mythical figure.
- The 405


New EP "Bison" to be released 21st Nov 2011

'Perun' (single)
Tartaruga Records, 6th December 2010



Bleeding Heart Narrative are a London sextet who weave together beautiful sounds with a haunting intensity. As interested in textures and orchestration as they are with rhythm and melody, theirs is a distinctive and captivating style that never settles on a single genre or approach. In creating their own music, Bleeding Heart Narrative incorporate their more abstract influences into traditional song structures, applying pop sensibilities to them as they go. You might hear the shimmer of Tortoise or Steve Reich built into a song that could be played on an Arcade Fire-sized stage, or pick out a Battle-esque repetition in a Mogwai-sized crescendo - but it'll always be Bleeding Heart Narrative you're listening to.