There are few albums that I would call truly beautiful, Helios’s Eingya and Gregor Samsa’s second full-length Rest spring to mind; and now, with Gem Club’s debut Breakers, Christopher Barnes, cellist Kristen Drymala and vocalist Leva Berberian have crafted quite simply one of the most systematically heartbreaking, haunting and outright beautiful albums to have graced my system in a long time and it can comfortably sit within that list.
There’s an unbelievable subtlety to this album, it’s got room to breathe and every note written sounds considered and then considered again. Stripped to a combination of rhythmic piano, calming vocals and brooding cello it can feel incredibly pure. I hesitate to say it verges on bleak with an almost melancholy feel. Go into this album in an optimistic mood and I’m sure you will take a different view compared to heading in full of pessimism.
It can be a worry with music similar to this that it comes across as a pretentious wash of sound but Gem Club manage to hold their focus and the songs here bleed with emotion. Pacing is key and although this may not be an album for every moment of the day it’s one that’s of little effort to listen to and at just shy of fourty minutes is the perfect length, never outstaying it’s welcome. Drums punctuate at the right moment and vocals soar when needed, it’s smart stuff and works very well.
Penultimate track 252 are where things really gather together and show what Gem Club can really do. It’s beautiful, a little friendlier and stands out strong on an album of already stellar tracks. The vocals lift and there’s a warmth that fills the sound that isn’t present prior.
It’s a difficult thing to review this album without listing a string of adjectives revolving around the word beauty but at it’s core this is what Breakers delivers. It was never going to be an album for every moment of the day and that’s ok; it’s an album to slip some headphones on and simply listen to. Don’t let this one fall into the background, it yearns to be heard properly.