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Chasing Promises

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Album Review

After being an exclusively European concern, Breathless finally got the chance to share some of its dark power and beauty with Chasing Promises via the state-side Troy label. Unfortunately said label didn't last too long, undeservedly consigning Promises to obscurity. Dominic Appleton, most well known in the US up to this point for his excellent vocals on This Mortal Coil's second effort Filigree and Shadow — that's him doing the excellent version of Pearls Before Swine's "The Jeweller" — here is in fantastic voice once again. With a soaring yet moody range that easily combines sweep and hushed tenderness, he leads the group through eight lengthy, impassioned performances. 'Epic' is a good way to describe songs like "Better Late Than Never" and "Smash Palace," but crucially nothing feels like pretentious, over-the-top instrumental wankery on display. It's easy enough to call Breathless goth, but unfair — there's something about the quartet that suggests instead the elegant, dramatic work of the Chameleons or the Sound. Similarly, Appleton's lyrics suggest close, personal matters rather than breast-beating problem solving on a grand scale. John Fryer's engineering help balances out Appleton's keyboards and guitars just so, the latter especially shining through via some driving solos from Gary Mundy. His work on the end of "Heartburst" is especially fine, a swirl of digital delay and just enough screech. The opening "Compulsion" sets the tone for the rest of the album well, a thick combination of percussion, synth shadings and ringing, Echo-inspired guitars. The absolute winner, though, is "Moment by Moment," probably the band's best song during its eighties years. Starting with an understated performance all around, first Appleton and then the rest of the group takes everything to a louder, impassioned level. As a hallmark of post-punk melancholic emotion, it has few equals.


Formed: 1982 in England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Obscure even to most fans of dark, moodily romantic U.K. post-punk rock, Breathless deserves kudos both for its persistence and for its enveloping music. Founded in the early '80s, the quartet has maintained almost the same lineup through 2000 and beyond, pursuing its own particular music with both dedication and a willingness to experiment and try new approaches over time. Two of the four band members, keyboardist Dominic Appleton and guitarist Gary Mundy, knew each other from school and had played...
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Chasing Promises, Breathless
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