Auditorium rather perversely started out as a single person project by Spencer Berger although now out on the road he is augmented by the talents of Chris Littler, Justin Hogan his sister Elizabeth and girlfriend Daya Wolterstorff.
These are deceptively slight songs, especially how they have been recorded here. This is solo record with Spencer recording it all over a period of 3 years or so. Consequently there seems initially to be something almost of the well put together demo feel to them. With the multiple layered and carefully harmonised vocals well to the fore, the remaining accompaniment sits back. I must admit that for a while I found this a bit disconcerting but the songs are well crafted and pull you back to keep listening to them.
It’s most as if this were the unplugged version of the album and I suspect that live the songs become more muscular, fleshed out and richer. This isn’t intended to be a criticism it’s just that it is unusual to have songs like this presented in such a pared down fashion and so rather than be impressed by the production and sound you actually get to know the songs first and then appreciate the light touch of the musical production.
The publicity around the album makes slightly arch references to Bowie and T Rex. Having grown up with both I guess I can just about see why but I am not convinced that these are the right references nor indeed that referencing others really helps much. Of course you can spot the hint of stage experience, semi-operatic vocal technique (although that gives a misleading impression) and it is tempting, given the close harmonies, to point to Fleet Foxes, but of course there is a myriad of other good harmonies in other bands and in some ways the harmonies, and the admirable brevity of the songs, are more redolent of sixties bands than the “nu folk” collective.
There is indeed much to like here, and more to like with subsequent plays, and the songs run through your mind in the wee small hours or when you least expect them to, surely the sign of quality song-smithing. Be Brave doesn’t hit you in the eye, demanding attention straight off, rather its an album that smoulders and whose glowing embers come to life bit by bit, an altogether more sustaining and rewarding thing.
But I am curious indeed to hear what this collection sounds like live, with a band, and with a richer supporting cast.