#14 REVIEW GRAND BRUIT: disagreement.net/


I first became aware of the indie rock band Vandermeer from Trier in 2019, when their second album Panique Automatique was released. About three and a half years later, the successor Grand Bruit follows. The quartet once again opted for a French-language title, although the band sings in English.
If you liked the second album, you will probably also appreciate Grand Bruit. The main framework of the music is still the skilful mixture of indie rock and shoegaze sound, although I have the impression that the band is acting a bit heavier on the new album than on previous works. The sound of Vandermeer is often based on noisy soundscapes, combined with the mostly soft voice of singer Harmke van der Meer. But she can also scream, as she comes across on All Sleek All Glass as anything but sweet. The first single, In All This Where Was I, presents the band from a more pop angle, with a bit of eighties synth pop thrown in. Pretty nice, but the noisier stuff like the second single Più Più appeals more to me. I was quite surprised by the bombast that is present on some tracks. Never Mind The Black Box, You Die Anyway may be a strange title, but the combination of noise rock with post rock is very impressive. The longest piece with an almost six minutes running time is called Napoli Centrale and is one of the highlights of the disc. It starts quite calmly, but afterwards you are really overwhelmed by an avalanche of pure noise.
It’s no secret that Vandermeer like to think outside the box. Sometimes the plan works out, but occasionally it backfires. Left & Leaving, a cover version of the Weakerthans, is mainly instrumental, with only sparse breathy vocals and is not really exciting. I prefer the band’s own material. Traces and Wasted Sorrows are two rather danceable numbers at the end, which contain some electro and techno beats. It’s not really my thing, but for this kind of music it comes across authentically. Since synthesizers are used in addition to guitar, bass and drums, such sounds are of course justifiable.
I like Vandermeer best when the balance of noise and melodies is right. Those who grew up listening to 120 Minutes in the early nineties, at the time when MTV still played music, will have a lot of fun with Grand Bruit, at least with three quarters of the album. The band reminds me a lot of artists like Spiritualized, Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, who were hip in the underground back then. As for the other quarter, your level of open-mindedness decides how much you can do with Grand Bruit.