Gates - Bloom & Breathe (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Bloom & Breathe (2014)

Pure Noise

New Jersey's Gates had first gained rightful notice on the strength of two free EPs. Initially came 2011's promising The Sun Will Rise and Lead Me Home, released on the digital download, donation-based Death to False Hope; the next year, they self-released the improved (noticeably in the vocal department) You Are All You Have Left to Fear. Both offered a hybrid of post-rock and emo in a dramatic package that wasn't unlike their neighbors to the near north, Moving Mountains, a sound that can be rather affecting when done well.

After a remixed and remastered reissue of Fear last year by Pure Noise that highlighted just how pretty and sparkly the band's atmospheres could be and a new bonus track that similarly built to a subtly gripping climax, it was obvious the band were on an upward trajectory, growing their sound tastefully. Their first full-length, Bloom & Breathe is largely a sensible extension of that growth, but with a few surprising left turns that make it a well-rounded, ambitious and enjoyable record.

Granted, Moving Mountains (most anything prior to their recent self-titled record, specifically) remain the most obvious comparison to draw. Hell, the influences that span that part of their catalog even seem prevalent here: the Appleseed Cast; Further Seems Forever (the two albums without Chris Carrabba, actually); and Thrice (ca. Vheissu). But this is largely forgivable given the memorable and compelling pull Bloom & Breathe has as it navigates its path while exploring expected bouts of relationship trauma, self-forgiveness and responsibility via phrases that sometimes slightly overplayed but never necessarily too heavy-handed. They craft verses that bubble and broil with breathy singing and interlayered, twinkling post-rock foundations that lead to big and emotionally strained, dynamic, melodic choruses; there's a couple of immediate examples that appear after intro "Everything That Ever Has Been" backing that,

Those songs essentially provide the band's bread-and-butter method, and they're very good, but it could imaginably get old if it's all they did from track to track. Thankfully, they don't. There's some quietly lively tapping or riffing on "The Thing That Would Save You" that almost gallops in comparison to the rest of the album; later track "Marrow" is a quick, acoustic sit-down. "Nothing You'll Miss" is an especially breathy and slow-moving, ambience-heavy song that acts a good pre-cursor for the album's biggest curveball, "At Last the Loneliest of Them". The longest track on Bloom & Breathe, that song's also one of its best; with its occasionally heavier beat and reverbed-out atmosphere, delay pedal, off-guard-catching falsetto and huskier, tensely moaned/screamed proclamations, it's pretty much right out of the Vheissu playbook, albeit a little more Deftones-y. It's a totally engrossing highlight, though, but Bloom & Breathe finishes strong on its final third, with the emphatic "Born Dead", whose closing gang chorus shies juuust on the side of tasteful, and the graceful pickup in energy from verse to chorus on "Low,"

Gates have provided an expectedly good but occasionally stylistically unexpected full-length debut; maybe part of that is what makes it so good.