Can we love in the time of Syria? Brainbeau negotiate a world in crisis with their nebulous LP Hold On

Brainbeau is the pairing of Brisbane’s Kat Martin and Chelvis Chesley. Their partnership is longstanding; they’ve been recording and releasing music independently since 2005.

Kat spent the better part of 2017 travelling alone across India, returning to Queensland in the time of Trump, fake news, and escalated nuclear tension. Fear in the Western World.

For both, the experience of reconvening Brainbeau has no doubt been one of rediscovery.

brainbeau hold on good samaritron Kat Martian Chelvis Chesley

Not only have Brainbeau had to renegotiate a shared musical language, they’ve also been faced with the task of reinstating their project within a turbulent external world.

To paraphrase Chelvis and Martin’s own words, their latest LP Hold On is a journey through a love as pathological and futile as it is unconditional and courageous. But perhaps it’s also documenting a struggle to overcome an endemic cultural malaise, or to even find love in the first place.

This leads on to what seems to be the record’s most potent contention: how can we love in the time of Syria? They’re dropping bombs on babies and we’re struggling to hit pause on Netflix and feel anything at all.

Brainbeau’s is a music which dodges easy comparison. As a kind of synth-heavy dub, their tracks feel like they’re not so much as modelled as they’re intuitively built up and layered together. That’s not to say the two, both producers in their own right, don’t revel in the aural trends which litter contemporary electronic music.

There’s an air horn in Crazy 4 U (love in the time of Syria), trap triplets on You’ll See and the bubbling synthetic pops shifting throughout Chains. Kat’s longing vocals surface throughout and are at times erratic, but when they do emerge they’re a cache of ache and emotion.

In an age where everything within our social media-dominated existence is bright, direct and simplified ad nauseam before being dumped into hash-taggable categories, the gentle Haters oscillates in ambiguity.

Going Out offers flickering eastern modes and gleaming moments of outsider pop. With its differing elements constantly shifting in and out of focus, Hold On creates musical worlds which are as beautifully spontaneous as they are nebulous.

Meanwhile the pulsing Chains pushes to elation while closer JSD rounds things out with a brilliant wash of breakbeats accompanied by what sounds like an African gospel choir.

Ultimately Brainbeau offer no all-encompassing answers to our existential woe, but perhaps they suggest there’s some solace to be found in earnest humanism. Hold On leaves a lingering idea that despite being the flawed and fickle vessels that we are, we can still connect. Maybe even persevere.


Hold On is available now.