Review by Christine Savage
BETRAYAL AT BESPIN is a seven-piece band hailing from Finland, harbouring a unique and eclectic sound, which ranges from at times minimalistic and ambient, to a heavier prog-rock feel. ‘Rains’, the bands second musical offering was created over the span of 2 years, with the help of 8 additional musicians adding to the mix. The album shows a high quality of craftsmanship in both the writing and production process, and could easily translate to a mesmerising live show.
The opening track ‘Strange Days’ outlines the diversity of the band. Beginning with a slow electronic beat and moody saxophone solo, it builds intensity and atmosphere, before shifting to a heavier sound with nostalgic vocals. The seamless changes in mood reflect the mature arrangement and cyclical structure of the song.
The unusual instrumentation and arrangements see Betrayal at Bespin evolving as a band, and provides a welcome change of pace to other less imaginative instrumental-based acts. A jazz feel is incorporated into the record with the intriguing melodic horn lines on ‘Atlantic’, and the sultry sax on the ethereal ‘Slow Dance’. Both songs oscillate between hypnotic, ambient melodies to a markedly heavier tone which sees a return to their progressive rock influence.
‘My Hands Are On Fire’ could have been an album highlight in that it shows off the drummers finesse, however, the screaming vocals feel a little unnecessary and out of place. The singer should stick to the more restrained style seen on ‘This Place is Death’, where the vocals still suit the hardcore genre but don’t lose their melodic quality.
A captivating, melancholic trumpet line weaves throughout ‘Ocean Rain’, a track that seems to reminisce about something that has been lost, never to be replaced. It is as compelling for its emotive power as its simplicity. ‘She Had A Death Wish’ is another stand out track of the record with slow-moving, layered guitars that creates an ethereal vibe letting your mind wander to an otherworldly place.
The introduction of a dark, haunting piano offers mystery and suspense on ‘Marie Celeste’. The addition of majestic, sweeping violins give rise to impressionistic images of vast, desolate landscapes. The song tells of triumph and struggle existing side by side, diligently capturing the album’s theme of love and loss.
Closing track, ’Moon River’, defines the elusive sound of Betrayal at Bespin as much as the opener, ‘Strange Days’. The beautiful vocals and finger picked guitar complement each other well. It ends the record in a peaceful, graceful style, bringing it to a subtle close.
While many of the songs on ‘Rains’ adhere to a standard tension-release construction, this large ensemble works well together, mixing an array of influences and instruments with a sophistication that departs from the predictability of heavy post-rock bands. Each track is in itself a single entity; however, the well-crafted record manages to achieve an overarching sense of continuity and unity. ‘Rains’ provides a delicate mixture between easy listening and spirited sonorities that make it good background music, or a well-produced record to tune in and deconstruct with intense focus.