Br'er
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"Br'er"

Br’er was formed in 2006 by Benjamin Schurr and Christian Mirande and in 2007 were were joined by multi-instrumentalist (Harp, Singing Saw, Organ) Darian Scatton. Since then Br’er has under gone several line up changes enlisting many musicians in and around the Philadelphia area. The current line up includes Benjamin Schurr, Darian Scatton, Keith Hampson, and Roger Alejandro Martinez.

Earlier this year Br’er released the “I’m a Kid Again”/ “I’m Sorry from Mom” 7? on the Edible Onion. The Edible Onion specializes in small run, hand painted, glued, screen printed, sewn, and overall delicately constructed records and releases. When I say that the Edible Onion does hand crafted releases I’m not kidding…on this release:

"each record jacket has a hand painted outer jacket, with vellum windows cut out to reveal a hand painted inner jacket. The painting was done with a mixture of acrylic and watercolor paint on oak tag (outside) and American Masters printmaking paper (inside). All of the text is handwritten."

On this record Br’er bridges the gap between indie pop with a healthy does of beautifully orchestrated chamber-esque music while incorporating unique aspects of ambient, almost mechanical, background noise...

Next month on October 6th the Edible Onion will be re-issuing Br’er’s formerly cassette only release titled Filled With Guilt & Diamonds…this re-issue will be on 180 gram vinyl and:

"The record is packaged in a screen printed, double gatefold sleeve with the lyrics laid out inside surrounded by ink drawings. This release includes a bonus track called ‘Centralia.’ Only 400 will be available!”"

On top of this amazing packaging Br’er gives us a slightly different look into their musical world with a well orchestrated EP that brings a similar vibe as the 7?. While staying true to the pop and chamber like aspects of the 7? Br’er expands on the noise elements not only in the background of the songs, but also as part of the intricate pop structure. From the handful of tracks that I have heard, and from description of the packaging, this record is for fans of both well orchestrated indie pop music, and DIY packaging alike.

This EP also features Nat Baldwin (occasional Dirty Projector) on stand up bass on the track “Painted Lady”...

Br’er is one of those bands that brings to mind comparisons to some bigger name indie acts, but to name drop those bands would be doing Br’er an injustice.

Br’er is taking it’s music to the road, and will be appearing in Brooklyn this Thursday, September 24th at Death By Audio. This show will be part of the current Maze installation…also playing at that show will be Sam Hilmer/Arrington De Dionyso (Old Time Relijun), Charlie Looker (Extra Life), Total Bolsheviks, & Daniel Carter Quartet. Br’er also have many other tour dates to come all over the US.

http://www.gprecs.com/2009/09/23/brer/ - The Great Pumpkin


"Br'er"

Br'er centers on the insular songwriting and hushed moan-croon of Philadelphia resident Benjamin Schurr, but it doesn't exactly call to mind the usual lo-fi bedroom pop. On the EP Filled With Guilt And Diamonds, some 20 musical collaborators (including members of such eccentric East Coast acts as Espers and Dirty Projectors) pitch in on arrangements that are actually quite focused and sharp, and incorporate everything from piano to strings to harp to gurgling hives of affected noise. Br'er often sounds not like "chamber pop" but like a less abrasive cousin to Xiu Xiu. (That's a compliment in this case.) Either way, Schurr and friends have moped (and rather deftly played) their way into a distinct, sometimes preciously dark sonic crawlspace. - Onion A.V. Madison


"Br'er - Filled With Guilt & Diamonds"

I’ve been dancing rather coyly with Br’er’s music for the last few months, trying to get to the stage where I really could figure out quite what I made of it. It’s tense, but not all that edgy, and can be beautiful, without ever being particularly pretty, and it is experimental but in more of an unsettling than a confrontational way.

It’s not that I intentionally try and pigeonhole music, although I suppose we all do it subconsciously, but it definitely took me a while to decide that with this stuff, I am just not that sure what I am listening to. There are elements of chamber pop, of cinematic indie stuff, of darkly camp musical theatre, and of elaborate orchestration and plenty of other things none of which seem to end up asserting a defining character over the finished article to the extent that I would feel really comfortable trying to express what I think I’m listening to here. I mean, for Christ’s sake, there’s even some Gregorian Chanting in here, or something worryingly close.

In general I suppose it’s the theatre of the thing which grabs me the most. It’s full of very disparate moments of high drama, all exaggerated to the point where most songs at some point have you raising an eyebrow, looking at the stereo, and thinking ‘what the fuck is this?’ with genuine curiosity.

Lyrically, I can’t make out much, to be honest, beyond to confirm the fact that the lyrical imagery seems to chime very much with the impression above: by turns theatrical, experimental, unsettling or flamboyant. Like the rest of the album it’s weird enough that I still don’t know if I love it or might turn out to hate it, but I’m definitely fascinated by it and I do find myself playing it a lot, albeit with the same slightly puzzled look on my face most of the time.

http://songbytoad.com/2009/10/brer-filled-with-guilt-and-diamonds/ - Song By Toad


"Br'er on Edible Onion Records"

Darian from Edible Onion records asked if I wanted to give one of these super handmade releases a listen. I'm seriously grateful he was able to send me one of these Br'er singles which are limited to just 300...the work that went into this is really impressive.

Both sides of the sleeve have windows of vellum where a painting on inner sleeve shows through. There are even painted cutout cardstock inserts with credits handwritten on the reverse. Not even the vinyl single itself escaped painting, the inner label is color coded and lettered as well.

The handmade painstaking quality of the sleeve absolutely reflects what's happening on the record. It completely adds to the entire experience of this recording....here's this delicate object that was literally painted by someone hundreds of times in their apartment, in countless steps of complication...drying, cutting, lettering...it's preparing you for the work...the blood and tears that went into the songwriting.

Benjamin Schurr has an amazing vocal quality on both of these sides, it's what I keep coming back to over and over. The thing I can't get over to even pay attention to the music...it's really the focus, for me, on both of these tracks. He's got an intimate high falsetto voice...a little more conventional than say a completely schizophrenic Xiu Xiu, or hoarse cracking Conner Oberst but it has all the epic tragedy. The content of someone completely stripped bare, and (pun intended) ....pulling it off.

There can be too much sharing, and this confessional intimacy can easily fall apart if not just carefully finessed. It's a careful combination of ingredients. It's nothing you can even duplicate...you know if you have it or not. Is that 'have-it' going to be different with everyone? I don't think so...I think when someone is completely sincere in their openness, it shows in the music. It helps to be talented...to have an ear for arrangement, to be skilled at composition, when you open up your diary to the world, and it better be honest. There's nothing easier to write off then being overly self aware....who wants to listen to an egotist? Himself.

As much as I'm really examining the vocals and why something like this is immediately of the caliber of Jeff Magnum, I do want to get into the orchestration which is insanely complex, and when I say orchestration, I mean it, I'm not just referring to an arrangement of the guitars and bass. This is an array of weird percussion, a beat consisting of multiple objects being struck in odd time. There's a harp, a saw...nothing ever gets gimmicky, or overused. You wonder what got these guys together in Philadelphia to construct this. It all works under a pop umbrella, but the pieces are impossible to pin down. Like watching a choir ring those bells individually, each person plays one ringing note...it doesn't even make sense on an individual level. I know they have to be amazed listening to their own song. It's a magic trick every time.

It's completely live sounding, this has been recorded all at once in a room, and there's no tour dates listen on Br'er's website and I'm beginning to wonder if, like with everything too great to be true, everyone has since moved on to other projects. This being so taxing emotionally and musically, they couldn't keep that kind of effort up forever, and it just collapsed under it's own weight. God, I'm writing their obituary already...they just have me in that tragic mood, where the most beautiful things are ephemeral...like the availability of this single.

http://7inches.blogspot.com/2009/06/brer-on-edible-onion-records.html - 7 inches


"Br'er - I'm a Kid Again 7""

Darian Scatton, who runs the Philadelphia label Edible Onion, contacted me last weekend about a review. On their myspace, I learned that not only had the small run label just released a new 7? by fellow Philadelphians Br’er, but that all of their releases were sent out with handmade art casing.

Of course, I leaped at the opportunity to receive such a release, and for good reason. The attention to detail on the album, is really amazing. Cut-outs hidden behind the vellum are painted on one side with the song name and recording/mastering information on the back. The songs were coincidentally mastered by Carl Staff, who also mastered an ep that His Hideous Heart, a band made up of some of my better friends, put out earlier this year. The two recordings are actually early versions of songs that would later be released on their album Of Shemales and Kissaboos. A heavily reverberated guitar opens "I’m Sorry Mom" as toned down drumming lets the Rhodes and toy pianos set the mood for Benjamin Schurr's whispered vocals. When the song comes full circle halfway through the soft cathartic release of the melody's adventurous notions, the come down is just as heavy. Again, we are slammed by some feedback before every instrument (theremin included) shines through for one jubilant final hurrah before the inevitable fade out. This was by far the most unique and greatest thing I've received since the formation of this blog and I’m incredibly happy and grateful for the ability to bring both the band and the label some attention. - Shock Mountain


"Br'er - Of Shemales And Kissaboos"

There ain’t a lot of things in this world that spell sadness better than songs on a record that seem to crawl back into the speakers for reluctance of coming out and make themselves heard. Usually one would believe that if a songwriter sat down to actually record some music, send it out, find a label willing to release his music, and whatever else is involved in making the step from bedroom-strumming to being a real musician, all of this then would involve a minimum amount of extroversion and self-confidence that is above average of regular folks. Well, think again.

The step to becoming a real artist usually is selling your art, because then you have made the step from hobby to profession, from amateur to profi. And what is a hobby-artist else than a lame excuse. (And what is a real artist else than a sell-out?) As I said, usually, because at times there are artists so introverted and reluctant to show themselves, their art seems to cringe at idea of being watched / listened / touched. How these ever get to find a publisher is a bit of a mystery, but one that just adds to the story. And maybe it is the only way to go by.

Br’er are one of those rare plants. Their album ran a few times while I was doing other things and all that remained or that I remembered was the moment, when the music was over. I had to sit down and get my mind to listening to these songs – and got distracted often enough – but when I had peeled off the protective skin I found wonderful, subtle, fragile pop songs, so melancholic and bittersweet, I felt as if I had raped them by prying open their cover. Like the one time I found a blindworm in my garden and picked it up and then it dropped its hind part (like they will do to distract predators, hoping that they will feast on the wiggling endpart rather than the more important rest) and I was so sorry, because I didn’t want to frighten the hell out of it.

Interestingly though, there are a lot of songs on this album that are actually rather wild and distorting themselves, like the wild piano banging on “Rory Snake Handler” or the noise parts in “Glory Hole” (and somebody told me of the other meaning of this) or the harsh techno beats at the beginning of “Emily the Bear”. And with an album titled “of shemales and kissaboos” you might think that shyness is not one of the major traits of this music. Maybe it is just the mix that seems to be all about everything being mixed in the back, behind everything else. Like MC Escher at the mixing desk. And Jamie Stewart in the back serving the coffee.
If Br’er wanted to publically exorcise their inner demons than they did a great job of holding the ruckus back in their rooms and halls. But maybe the album is actually all about re-writing children’s stories to bring out the inner selves of those protagonists and heroes of bedtime fairytales. Summing up you could say, that if you take Paper Chase and make them stand in a lake with a little wind, then Br’er are the band that is reflecting in the waves.

http://monochrom.at/cracked/reviews/Rev%20brer.htm - Monochrom


"Br'er - Of Shemales And Kissaboos"

Another brittle-beautiful CD album from Vienna’s hottest Indiepop outlet Beat is Murder! Br’er is Philly-based Benjamin Schurr and Christian Mirande, plus a good amount of friends and followers that all play a certain role on the full-length debut “Of Shemales and Kissaboos“. Bittersweet and dysfunctional Avant Pop that beats the hell out of your expectants.

For me, it usually takes a few runs to get into the records Dino Spiluttini releases at Beat is Murder. But when the music finally gets me, joy is multiplied by the time it took to decrypt the songs. This happened to me for Liger, Thee Moths and, most recently, Br’er. Alongside their multifarious chambermusic, odd boys Schurr and Mirande put up an artificial, gender-sensitive and semi-orchestral image that makes them a logical and enriching addition to the BiM rooster. Let’s go song by song, briefly.

“Of Shemales and Kissaboos” starts with the gentle “I’m a Kid Again”. All glockenspiel, stage piano, organ and vocals, this opening song both gives you a good idea about the album and leads you astray. “Maven” has a more opulent feel. I like these dark harmonium- and synth-textures that work pretty well with the boys’ Arcade Fire-style choir vocals. For “I’m Sorry Mum”, label mates Liger are probably the best comparison. Brisk chords on a detuned harp (?) mix with naive melodies and Schurrs dark singing voice to something neither really Pop nor Folk. These moments of atonality can be found in the violent Heavy Metal-blasts of “Rory Snake Handler”, too. Bursting with noise and organ-drones, this is Br’er at the edge of what one might term Rock. The vocal harmonies are very very Radiohead. And very very beautiful. “Spearhead’s Sister” is the minimal twin of “Rory Snake Handler” develops the outlined melody in a subtle and clever manner. The ballad, actually. “Lapin” at six has a similar minimal approach as “Spearhead’s Sister” but is based on a whole different musical idea. Imagine a mixture of European Renaissance bassedanse and Japanese Folklore plus a Slintistic finish. Woof!

The last three songs on “Of Shemales and Kissaboos” are less-Pop-more-noise. “Glory Hole” is piano noir and all about gloom, “Abcess Marked Return” a step towards synthesizer distortion and rural Postpunk, ca. 1980. “Emily the Bear”, finally, starts rough but moves into an intensive vocal performance over harmonium and crooked synth-sweeps that makes Conor Oberst sound like a school boy.

http://rubored.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/74-brer-of-shemales-and-kissaboos-cd-beat-is-murder/ - What's Hot Today?


"Br’er – I’m A Kid Again/I’m Sorry Mom (Single)"

This limited edition seven inch brings together two powers from Philadelphia’s underground music scene. The band is Br’er, a quartet that specializes in melancholy avant-pop. The label is Edible Onion, a small imprint operated by Darian Scatton, who plays harp, saw, and other assorted instruments in Br’er. The amount of effort that Edible Onion puts into their records is amazing. I tip my hat to anyone who has the strength to hand-paint 300 record jackets. The two songs that comprise this release (”I’m A Kid Again” and “I’m Sorry Mom”) are alternate versions of tracks that appeared on 2007’s Of Shemales And Kissaboos. His lyrics are dark, but vocalist Benjamin Schurr’s fragile vocals are perfect for the group’s lullaby tones. I may actually prefer this take on “I’m A Kid Again.” It isn’t as harsh as the album version, which allows the build-up to shine through. Scatton’s multi-instrumentation adds a great deal to “I’m Sorry Mom,” helping it live up to the fitting title of “Angelic Version.” I’ve yet to hear Br’er’s full length in its entirety, but I would genuinely like to after hearing this single. Br’er are a little-known act at the moment, but with new music in development and a U.S. tour in the fall, their presence is sure to grow.

http://liepaper.com/blog/2009/08/24/brer-im-a-kid-againim-sorry-mom-single/ - Unfinished


"Review: Titus Andronicus @ The Barbary"

While watching Br’er, I couldn’t decide if vocalist/songwriter/harmonium player Ben Scurr was a genius or had been spending way too much time within the confines of West Philly for his own good. After fully observing the set and letting it stew for a bit, I’m leaning towards the former. Br’er is not an easy band to like, and could at times only be described as startling; but, their music is full of Moments (yes, with a capital ‘m’) when all the dissonance and weirdness come together. Then, you finally see what the song’s all about, and it’s a beautiful, melancholy thing. Br’er is chamber music for schizophrenics.

Read more: http://www.phrequency.com/genres/rock/Review_Titus_Andronicus__The_Barbary.html#ixzz0W151IWld - Phrequency


Discography

Of Shemales & Kissaboos - Nov 07 CD (EUR) - Beat is Murder

Archaic Fetishism Volume 1 (Split with Drums Like Machine Guns) - Oct 7th, 2008 CS - Edible Onion

Filled With Guilt & Diamonds - November 4th, 2008 CS - Edible Onion

Br'er & Hermit Thrushes Split - Dec 08 7" - Single Girl Married Girl

I'm a Kid Again Single - Feb 2nd 2009 7" - Edible Onion

Of Shemales & Kissaboos - Feb 2009 CD US - Neon Aztec

Filled With Guilt & Diamonds - October 27th 2009 12" - Edible Onion

Photos

Bio

Br’er is primarily a recording project for Philadelphia native Benjamin Schurr, employing a large host of musicians in the area to create his dense experimental pop compositions. Formed originally as a means to complete several unfinished songs Benjamin recorded for another project, Br’er quickly became its own entity after several manic recording sessions with borrowed equipment, broken keyboards and other pieces of musical trash lying around. “Of Shemales and Kissaboos,” the first Br’er album was recorded in a period right after Benjamin got off of being on medicine and was homeless. This resulted in guerilla recording sessions that involved finding a place to stay, hauling a bunch of equipment, and recording for a few days before leaving. Br’er became a functional band with the addition of harpist/multi-instrumentalist Darian Scatton in July of 2007, and after several line up changes, is now touring as Benjamin Schurr, Darian Scatton, Roger Martinez and Keith Hampson (Power Animal).

Benjamin is an audiophile, which means that he is constantly seeking new timbres, textures and noises to color and shape Br'er's sound. Br'er has taken inspiration from the harsh tones of artists like Einstruzende Neubauten, Nico and SWANS, as well as the bittersweet songwriting of Leonard Cohen, The Magnetic Fields and The Smiths. It's also not uncommon to find elements of Gamelan, 20th century classical music, or 60's pop in Br'er. Despite these diverse influences, Benjamin manages to synthesize these sorts of sounds into a cohesive whole that is not only unique, but also deeply personal.