When I first saw the packaging for Broken.Heart.Collector’s album, I must admit I thought my ears were due to receive a dose of twee indie folk: cartoony paintings of wolves, flies and flying hearts with bat’s wings. But about nine minutes into the first track, “Love Reclamation Song”, any twee possibilities were dispelled by the arrival of a bass driven, muscular rhythm; topped by distorted vocals and a punctuating wind section. This had all been preceded by cautious, building and colourful sections, full of different textures and sounds; all combined with a melancholy vocal, to bring forth an eerie atmosphere of expectation. Though its safe to say that the end of the song was not expected…
Its certainly not an album of twee indie folk – though this area raises its head in the lyrics to “Another Heart Bites The Dust”; which is a dark, fairytale-like story of a “poor but youthful lad, who loved a girl with all he had”. Its rather a very eclectic album, with lots of different tones and structures; populated by unusual elements like electronics, textural percussion and wind instruments. Often these wind parts provide the skeleton of the songs, with the guitar as an embellishment: Broken.Heart.Collector are far from a guitar band. There is a definite trace of the cabaret tradition in their sound; a hearkening back to pre-rock/pop (as we know them) forms and notions. Though this shouldn’t be interpreted as indicating a smoothness or detached theatricality: “Get The Dog” has a thunderous bass clarinet groove that any gypsy wedding band would die for – not so much “pumping”, as “pounding”. “Wolves” builds on a disco beat to the poppiest moment of the album, before launching into a noisy prog-disco swagger. The start of “Eisenwalzer” has all the “sturm and drang” of Einsturzende Neubauten, before turning to more Metal-lic structures for the chorus; the song fading out to a lone glockenspiel. The album carries a wide range of tones and moods, without ever deviating from the band’s “sound” – not the easiest of things to achieve; so, in comparison to “Get The Dog” and “Eisenwalzer”, “Boatwischmusik” is a pondering, quiet, unhurried track. It reminds me of an avant-Tindersticks, if such a thing should exist… “Eckig” combines these extremes of tone in one song, with languid, hymnal, wind/vocal drones over clattering, manic percussion. Scattered amongst the songs are also a few instrumentals; these range from moody improvisations, to more overtly “Improv” explorations and energetic, rhythmic dances.
Broken.Heart.Collector have created an album, here, of great colour, breadth and depth. It covers a lot of ground, without wandering into any territory beyond its powers; and draws its sounds from a wide palette of instrumentation. These instruments are all given quite equal weighting, so that none truly dominate; but it is the wind work that shines most brightly to me. These parts often have the rhythmic power of a brass section, and kick up quite a storm. The musicianship is of a high quality throughout, and the vocals, from Maja Osojnik, are strong enough; though they rarely break into a sweat. There is a great attention to detail, with lots of little touches that show an intelligent, creative approach to the studio – for instance, the buried, whispered vocal that shadows the main vocal part in “Wolves”. As mentioned earlier, there is a leaning towards the cabaret tradition in the songs, as well as a general “Eastern European” feel – which I imagine is due, in part, to the prominent wind instrumentation. (Broken.Heart.Collector hail from Vienna, and the evidence suggests Osojnik is Slovenian, but I can’t confirm this…) This is tempered with clear nods to the influence of noise rock, industrial music and dance-floor concerns – but never with any sense of novelty or dilettantism. Abrasive, jazzy, clever and groovy; with a rich, fascinating wealth of sounds: a very solid album indeed.