This piece was originally to be entitled “Introducing: Bear Driver” but upon beginning the customary, and of course rigorous, research I discovered that to do so would be pretty inappropriate. The reason being that this 6 piece collective, originally from Leeds but now based in London, have been making waves for a little while now. Last summer they played at both Reading and End Of The Road Festival whilst also grabbing supporting slots for Everything Everything and Bombay Bicycle Club as well as releasing their first single, Wolves. The question I was now asking is why has it taken so long for these guys to reach my, apparently cocooned, listening environment?!
Bear Driver are to play at the South By South West (or SXSW as it is fondly acronymically known) film, music, technology and, it would appear, all things good festival over the pond in Texas. They are by all accounts pretty excited by this and in a wonderful attempt to share some of this excitement are offering a new track for free download every week until they depart. It is through these promo tracks that they thankfully, finally came to my attention.
The first track in the series is “Fugitive” and it does indeed serve as a great introduction to the group and as to how their sound appears to have developed as they’ve spent more and more time together since their summer successes. This is a track with far more substance, thanks principally to the layered almost orchestral feel no doubt garnered through growing maturity and togetherness, than the amiable but perhaps shallow “Wolves”. The opening harmonies are layered over a cautiously rousing up-tempo beat that hints of a crescendo to come. The early chorus feels a little held back, perhaps due to the restrained vocals, yet to an extent this serves to further accentuate the attempted fervour of the closing stages. The last minute sees some of that vocal restrained lifted in favour of straining passion. Yet at the same time it feels paradoxically muted, leaving you slightly confused, perhaps that is to be expected from the muddled haziness that such a collective brings.
Thankfully the second and in my opinion best track, “Enemy” provides a more lucid and poignant listening experience. It opens with far more defined vocals, the dual harmonies of “Fugitive” being jettisoned in favour of stripped back youthful singularity which add an extra dimension of exuberance. The verse builds and carries well into the choral chorus with it’s amplified zeal providing a truly infectious refrain. The tempo yo-yo’s throughout alongside the cascading folk instrumentals, almost taking you on an aural journey (plus the whistling is really catchy!). Unlike “Fugitive” you are not on this occasion left muddled or wanting more but in a state of folk-induced contentment.
“Jenny” stands in rather stark contrast to “Enemy” and “Fugitive” with muddled playfulness replaced by a haunting ambience. Back are the dual vocals but on this occasion they are even more ghosted and intertwined than before. The hazy, hypnotic vocals are almost inseparable from the mesmerising melodies on which they glide. For me it strangely prompts memories of a fuller folk version of the Swedish dream pop duo jj which is admittedly a rather left field comparison! The over-arching feel of “Jenny” being intensely yet almost intangibly atmospheric making it perhaps the most substantial track yet…
The free releases are set to continue in the coming weeks and you can, and indeed should, grab them off the group’s blog at www.beardriverband.blogspot.com
In the meantime here’s my favourite: