The universe is making music all the time

Step Right Up: Brumes

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Interview with Brumes.

“I only recently began to write music with more intention – before I had little control or awareness of what was spilling out of me, my hands would physically ache to play music.

— Desireé Rousseau

Words: Mark Carry

brumes 1

If ever a single piece of music serves to embody an album’s enriching journey it is the achingly beautiful instrumental ‘The Color of Light and Shadow’ wherein a gorgeous tapestry of harp notes and cosmic violin melodies grace the atmosphere. The album in question is ‘Soundings in Fathoms’ by Portland Oregon-based three piece Brumes. A soft whisper uttering “Wow!” can be heard on tape as the divine music gradually fades into oblivion; somehow reflecting the transcendent nature of this remarkable record. A deeply personal creation, the seven sublime tracks contained on ‘Soundings in Fathoms’ infinitely heightens with the passing of time.

Brumes comprises of Desireé Rousseau, Dalton Long and Nico Bartulski. The band’s album was recorded by renowned producer (musician/composer) Peter Broderick at his home studio The Sparkle along the Oregon coast. The immaculate instrumentation of voice, harp, keys, guitar, drums and percussion evokes timeless sounds of ambient-infused-drone soundscapes, ethereal folk laments, neo-classical explorations and cinematic dream-wave creations. Rousseau’s delicate dream-like folk gems navigates the heart’s depths that draws striking parallels with Grouper’s Liz Harris such is the unfathomable beauty created.

The slow-burning ambient folk lament ‘Stay Low’ comprises Rousseau’s fragile voice melded with warm percussion, keys and brooding, hyopnotic guitar lines. The gorgeous ambient pulses of ‘I Heard You’ captures a myriad of feelings: yearning, fear, anguish, hope and dreams are all dotted across the canvas of sacred sounds. The sparse folk ballad ‘Snow’ drifts majestically in the ether that invites you to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The refrain of “Let’s Go Home” is sung over uplifting instrumentation of synths, guitar and drums that masterfully emits a radiance and light of hope. The windswept beauty of Rousseau’s vocal delivery on ‘I Unfold’ is one of the record’s defining moments, particularly as the crescendo of guitars and drums comes crashing in like ocean waves.

The intimacy and immediacy of Rousseau’s penned songs is one of the striking aspects of Brumes’s magical spell, forever traversing light and dark, akin to a lunar eclipse as the earth’s shadow blocks the sun (as depicted on the album cover). ‘Oh, Zia’ is one of those songs that reduces you to tears in mere moments with each aching harp note and poetic prose uttered by Rousseau’s achingly beautiful voice. This resolutely unique and deeply contemplative album invites the listener “to dream alone” and as the cosmic whirlwind of the stunning closer ‘Whirlpooling’ fades into the night, I feel music’s undeniable power to transcend and illuminate wash over the moonlit skies.

‘Soundings in Fathoms’ is available now on limited edition cassette and download:

Interview with Desireé Rousseau, Dalton Long & Nico Bartulski (Brumes) and Peter Broderick.

Congratulations on the stunning new album, ‘Soundings In Fathoms’. The many intricate layers of strings, voice, keys, drums, percussion and guitar renders a captivating sound and ethereal atmosphere. Please take me back to the recording sessions at The Sparkle with Peter Broderick and talk me through this particular space in time when ‘Soundings In Fathoms’ was created? 

Dalton Long: The Sparkle was a wonderful surprise. Peter invited us through a mutual friend, Mariano, so we had no idea what to expect from the weekend. Desireé had been disappointed by previous recording sessions with others, but I believe the opportunity for an escape to the coast gave her hope. We drove through thick rain and dark forests to meet Peter for the first time at The Sparkle. It’s hard to describe how we felt getting to know Peter and spending more time with Mariano.

Desireé Rousseau: It felt so familiar, like remembering something long forgotten.

DL: The next day, after a cosy breakfast, we quickly recorded a few tracks and took a break to enjoy the beach and roast some mallows. Upon returning, we all decided to play with some of Peter’s beautiful instruments, which led to “Whirlpooling.” The rest of the weekend was spent over good food and loud card games. It felt like a weekend with old friends, and for me the recordings seem like a side note to the whole experience. I think the whole weekend can be heard in those recordings.

I love the ambient/drone dimension these stunningly beautiful songs effortlessly reside in. For example, the ambient pulses of ‘I Heard You’ is one of the record’s (many) defining moments. Please discuss this ambient world you clearly gravitate towards and the techniques/instrumentation utilized to create such beguiling soundscapes? Luminaries such as Julianna Barwick, Grouper et al come into sharp focus such is the windswept beauty of Brumes’ music.

DR: A difficult time in my early 20’s inspired this entire project, soft swelling and distant impressions of sounds were my only refuge and the outlet for all of my confused energy. I only recently began to write music with more intention – before I had little control or awareness of what was spilling out of me, my hands would physically ache to play music. All of my original songs were improvised and recorded on the spot and therefore ended up with an organic and honest quality to them. Now when I feel a song growing I usually loop different textured bases of keys, harp, vocals, and guitar; and then sort it out from there.

Brumes, in recent times have evolved into a core trio. I would love for you to discuss how you all first met and crossed paths with one another? Please discuss the influence of Portland and the music community there has had on the development of your music? I can imagine being at the coast, especially along the Oregon coast would somehow help shape the music in some way?

DR: Brumes has been a solo project of mine with contributing members for years now.  Most recently though, I have felt very ready to move on and create something bigger. Dalton (drums) moved into the house I was living in 2 years ago and Nico (keys) was a friend of his – and now we are all currently living together. Neither of them had much of a musical background but our simple compatibility and their aptitude made teaching them from scratch fairly easy and completely worth it.

Brumes began solely as a recording project and I never intended on playing shows but once I began to share my recordings I was asked to share my music in a live setting. Eventually I was adopted by the ambient-noise scene here in Portland. Our sound is growing more rhythmic and orchestrated (less ambient and improvised) and I have felt nervous that our fan base is from a different genre background. It feels like I’m leaving the nest into uncharted territory now that our sound is evolving.

DL: When I moved to Portland from the east coast a couple of years ago I ended up subletting a space in Desireé’s house. I remember the first week I was there Desireé invited me to a Brumes show. It was in an old candlelit church with only a handful of people, it was there that I immediately fell in love with Brumes. Desireé ended up becoming my closest friend and a little bit of a music mentor as I started playing keyboard for the first time. It was around this time that I became close friends with Nico and we ended up introducing one another to some good music. I knew Nico shared a similar longing to create music, so once I started playing drums I knew they would be willing to take over my parts on keyboard.

Brumes is Desireé’s baby and I was pretty nervous to contribute to a project that I thought was great as a solo project. But Desireé is the type of person that knows what she wants and I think after we started adding drums and writing for a three-piece we were excited with what was happening.

Nico Bartulski: I met Desireé a couple of times in her home – the one that Dalton initially moved into. She was a mystery and appropriately intimidating. Dalton had been inviting me to Desireé’s shows for a month or so and I was finally able to make it out to one. That night when Desireé played she weaved the audience gently into each of her songs as she was called into her own sound. Months later Dalton approached me with an invitation to join what had by then become a duo – I was surprised and instantly said yes. Desireé’s music and what is slowly becoming our music resonates with me. I so often get lost in its dreaminess and catch myself in the way it balances light and dark.

The album artwork is beautiful as is the wonderful photo booklet, both serve to further heighten the accompanying music. Please talk me through these special photograph series and indeed the cover artwork? The album title, ‘Soundings In Fathoms’ also fits the music so perfectly. I wonder at which point in the music-making process was this title conceived?

DR: I wanted to include as many aspects of personal creation in this whole release and it became a culmination of mediums that I take part in; music, writing and photography. The booklet is a stand in for a CD (it comes with a mp3 code) and I like that it’s two art forms in one package. The photographs are mostly 35mm, a few medium format, taken with a camera I found in a free pile the summer before I first left for what would become a six month tour of Europe. I left the descriptions for the photographs as minimal as possible so the viewer wouldn’t be distracted and could create their own narrative. Each photograph has its own story which I am happy to tell anyone who is interested.

The very moment I found Soundings and Fathoms” was on an old map in a church, on an island off the coast of Washington. I knew it to be a measurement but it felt like more than that to me; contemplative, representing fluidity and the Pacific Northwest where I was raised. The tendrils of this album had begun to grow already; this was a year or two before I met Dalton and Nico.

DL: The cover art was actually our second choice, but I’m glad we went with the image we did. The cover is a re-creation of an old print we came across that illustrates a lunar eclipse. I am a huge fan of space and I like how this print reinforces the theme of distance while conflicting with the idea of sound and measurement in space. Also, a key part of our release was the individuality of each tape. We hand printed each cover with a stamp I made, so each cover is a little different. I think there’s something to be said for taking the time to package every tape one by one and retaining some of that DIY ethos.


The dialogue between harp and violin on ‘The Colour of Light and Shadow’ represents the album’s towering centrepiece. Can you recount your memories of writing this breathtaking instrumental? 

DR: This song has long been a favourite of mine and I wanted to create an updated version of it for the new record since contributing members had shifted.

Peter Broderick: The original version of this piece was comprised of harp and voice, as opposed to harp and violin. I remember vividly the first time I heard the original version, and being so stunned by the simple vocal melody and how it weaved around the harp. I was thrilled when Desireé proposed that we try and record a version with the violin. I think we both had the feeling that it would work quite effortlessly, and indeed it did. The version that’s on the album is only the second time we ever played the piece together . . . and actually we would have used the first take but I made a mistake while trying to record it and didn’t realize until after we finished that it hadn’t been recording. I actually started tearing up while making the mix down of this track. Something about it just really, really gets me.

The placing of dreamwave, ethereal pop gems such as ‘Stay Low’, ‘I Unfold’ and ‘Snow’ alongside more lengthy drone pieces creates such a spellbinding force and other-worldly atmosphere. Did it prove challenging to come up with the final track-list for the record? 

PB: From what I recall the track order came very easily. I knew the long piece (‘Whirlpooling’) should go at the end, and I wanted to space out the more band oriented tracks (‘Stay Low’, ‘Snow’ and ‘I Unfold’) . . . Plus, since the album was being created to go on cassette tape, we wanted to have the two sides as even in length as possible, as not to have too much blank space at the end of either side. I felt a tiny triumph in being able to make each side exactly 17.5 minutes!

Please take me back to your earliest musical memories and the beginnings with your fascination with sound? At which point did the narrative of Brumes begin?

DR: My earliest inclinations toward music aren’t my own memories but my Grandmothers. For my first birthday I received Fantasia which I was apparently captivated by and have watched consistently my entire life. My Grandmothers partner was a drummer and she told me that I used to sneak into the practice space as a toddler, go crazy playing the drums and carefully put the drum sticks right where I found them so no one would know. My first memory of being moved by sound is a little embarrassing but so clear: when I saw Titanic in second grade I became obsessed with Celine Dion’s “My heart will go on”. I taught it to myself on the piano and the recorder and would record myself singing into our outgoing message on the answering machine. I received a small organ when I was 9 and played violin as a child as well. As a teenager I wasn’t as interested in music and didn’t play from age 15-19. “Stay low” is actually my oldest song and one of the first that I wrote when I began to play music again.

DL: My family was never musically involved, so I don’t think my fascination with sound, or at least music, arrived until I was 11 or 12. For me these formative years were spent in the outskirts of a hardcore scene. Who knows how or why the harsh sounds and intense energy resonated with me but I loved the music. For some reason I never really made friends with the kids who called that scene their own. I think because I ended up being so solitary that I avoided playing music for a long time while all my friends fell into bands with other people.

NB: I have always been intimidated by musical instruments and swore off learning any after I quit my piano lessons when I was eight years old. But my older siblings were always musically talented whether it was playing the piano or clarinet on my sister’s end or my older brother using digital composition programs to make his own music. My music taste is far and wide venturing to more ambient projects to oldies like Sam Cooke.

The album closer ‘Whirlpooling’ feels like a cosmic journey into the labyrinth of time. I feel like this was borne from improvisation. Would this be the case? The many nuances and textures to this slowly-building piece is a joy to behold. Please talk me through this particular track. 

DL: I believe this track encapsulates our weekend at The Sparkle with Peter. After coming back from the beach and wrapping up a few loose ends, we all sat down to tinker with a few of Peter’s beautiful instruments. I went for a slide organ that I believe Peter had used on some metal tracks he had just recorded. Desireé set up behind a mic, a celeste, and a keyboard. Our friend Mariano sat down at the drumset and Peter grabbed his violin. Then we just started playing and from there it was incredibly natural, everyone playing separately until the next thing I know we were all in sync. We just went with it and “Whirlpooling” fell out. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt after we all stopped playing that night. It was beautiful. I believe the raw recording even featured some giggles and a “Wow” right as it all came to an end. That was the last thing we recorded that weekend, and I love that we were able to include it on “Soundings in Fathoms”.

What are the records you have been obsessed with most of late? Please include any films/books too.

DR: Our musical roots are bound to pop-punk which was a bonding point for us as friends. That being said I can’t stop listening to the new Title Fight album “Hyperview”. One albums  always revisit is Evan Abeele – A Choir of Empty Rooms.

DL: Diet Cig’s EP “Over Easy” has been great to yell out loud all summer. Bell Witch’s “Longing” has been on repeat since it came out in 2012. I’m also very excited for the new Deafheaven release. Outside of music I try to stay on top of a few different comic book titles too, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s “Nameless” is quickly becoming a top choice.

NB: I have been listening to Girlpool’s self-titled album and “Before the World Was Big“, “Strange Cacti” by Angel Olsen, “Bury Me At Make Out Creek” by Mitski, and shamelessly One Direction.

I read a lot of comics and obsess over a lot of illustrators. I’m forever following the work of Yumi Sakugawa, Lindsay Watson, and Hellen Jo.




‘Soundings in Fathoms’ is available now on limited edition cassette and download:


Written by markcarry

October 27, 2015 at 4:01 pm

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