Bruja (pronounced Broo-ha) are one of my favourite local bands. For many reasons. They’re definitely a blogger’s kind of band too. They’re a pleasure to both write about and watch on the live circuit. They do everything in the right way. They have a social media presence that suggests both they work hard and have fun. When they share their news and updates, it is always relevant and they do so with the best kind of enthusiasm. They also have a look that suits their music and there is not an ounce of arrogance about them. In fact, you’ll often see them in the audience for many local gigs, supporting the scene themselves.
Since they first appeared on the scene two years ago, they have recorded and released two full length albums. Odium and Midnight Tales were both lengthy and often of demo quality. However, they were replete with quality songs and scattered with ideas that showed flashes of great potential. For a band with a then small fan based that was playing 30 minute sets, there was too much going on to pin down any kind of direction, but their sense of adventure was admirable and gained them respect from both rock and indie scenes respectively. Bruja constantly flipped between dark and light, heavy and soft and used atmospheric female and male vocals to full effect; one minute sounding like Melvins or Sabbath, the next Violent Femmes, Pixies or The Vaselines.
I really wanted to see this band that I really loved to next go to the next level and work out what kind of band they were, spend some money on some quality production and studio time and produce a fantastic EP. The band have since played all over the region, forging alliances with bands such as Hands Off Gretel, Dancing Cake, Yawning Dog and Demur and supporting the likes of Allusondrugs and Bi:lingual. They have gained quite a following along the way. They have also produced a debut EP at 2Fly Studios (65 Days Of Static, Hey Sholay, The Long Blondes). This sophomore effort should be their defining statement. The band have been working hard, honing down their sound and working out what exactly what Bruja is.
Spread over six tracks, Bruja shows a band that have come on strides. The EP opens with the totally original sounding, thunderous ‘XXX’. It’s brash and in your face, with a deep heavy fuzz and a jet stream guitar. You might never have guessed either that it would be bassist Delyth who would be the one to step up to the plate and front the band as lead vocalist, but on previous efforts, I thought it was her tracks that seemed to be the most experimental and exciting. In the song’s closing minute, the tracks takes a sharp turn and winds down with a slow durge. XXX is closely followed by ‘Drone’ and opens with bass and drums sounding not too dissimilar to something from Nirvana’s Bleach. The guitar and vocals are both sharp and venomous and on one scream.
‘Horsey and You’ was the first track to be released – as a single and video no less earlier this month. This slice of grunge-lounge-psychedelia is a song about going on romantic strolls ona beach with your favourite horse. It’s laid back groove, jangly guitars and fuzz rekindles fond memories of Ringo Deathstarr and Giant Drag. ‘Sugar Baby’ slinks along in a similar manner and this time round Del’s drawl sounds like Melissa Auf Der Maur battling against The Cramps with lazer guns, backed by the soundtrack of Nirvana’s Incesticide. It’s a glorious, chaotic mess and booth tracks are easily my highlights of the EP. Buzzy Bee smacks even more of Auf Der Maur, and that is definitely no bad thing. And like the latter’s debut solo album, this also sounds like it could sit comfortably on a QOTSA album.
Closing the EP is Bon, a re-recorded track lifted from their Midnight Tales album. It was a highlight then and here it stands out as a beautiful oddity. Like Horsey and You before it, this is a love song about a dog called Bon. Driven by a bass-line that rolls around like a giddy puppy; this time round the song is improved upon with added backing vocals, fizz and a playfulness that reminds me of early Flaming Lips.
It pleases me no end to hear that Bruja have found a sound that totally suits them. Here they sound comfortable and have retained all of the elements I loved about them first time round. The decision to have Del on lead vocals has paid off too. Even though it seems they have made all the right decisions, I get to thinking that Bruja won’t be tied down and EP #2 will be totally different. After arriving on the local scene with two full length albums, it is actually this short set that is their defining moment to date. As it stands, ‘Bruja’ is a fantastic collection of songs, one that no doubt will show of the band to their best in a live setting. I’m looking forward to following another year of Bruja.
BRUJA launch their EP on August 14th at Barnsley Rock & Blues Venue.