Review of Break [12k1089]

Fluid (UK)

Break is Corey Fuller’s first solo record on 12k, and it fits the aesthetic of the label perfectly. The crashing of the waves – a metaphor for the struggles and troubles that inevitably come one’s way – is the theme of the record, but it’s also about finding peace and courage while in the eye of the storm, and treating that storm as a cocoon in which transformation is undergone. From the inky depths of a crushed soul to a clearing of the thunderstorm, Fuller notates something which for better or worse unites humanity in its entirety: struggle and heartbreak. We share in the same sorrows, and the same difficulties unite us. Humans are not too dissimilar at all – suffering is universal. We share more in common with one another than the news headlines will have you believe.

Unity is stronger than division.

As such, this album is an olive branch, a peace offering for the world. Aiming for a realization of the truth, Break reveals a nature common to everyone, awash in pre-installed morality. Fuller wants to elevate things, even while the two sides of peace and conflict continue to engage in warfare. Everything passes, so this thought can be a comforter when you’re in the thick of it, or in periods where patience is needed. It’s a virtue for a reason, and deep breathing can work wonders.

Break’s quiet music unites in times of despair. Vocal exhalations mirror the crashing of waves against obdurate rocks, and Fuller’s sighing vocal, a passing cloud of vapour, translates the transience of life into sound. Similar to coming up for air during a trial, taking in a lungful of oxygen, the sighs offer respite.

At sea level, high tide seems invincible, but when it recedes, scissor-shaped rocks reveal bones and old shipwrecks. Our lives are like that, too. On the surface, all appears well, but when you look underneath – when difficulties arise and hope recedes like the afternoon tide – you’ll begin to notice the threads of anxiety and fear. Worries and struggles affect the human body in a physical way, but Break’s inner peace can’t be shaken. Some of its heavier sounds attempt to drag the music down, but fragile and almost weightless piano melodies swim in the mix, keeping it afloat. A constant pull and release sweeps through the entire record, the air and the oxygen of the surface contrasting with life under the blue, bobbing line.

Grainy distortion occasionally marks the tone, which fizzes like the surf. The background atmosphere remains light and clear to the point of transparency. When the music ascends and the background loses weight, the music floats in the air like a bubble, tethered only to its light, almost microscopic elements. Fuller’s attention to detail is second to none, and it all points to an intense period of considered work. The melodies are ushered out with care, and much of the music cycles around the piano, which was ‘recorded in a way that you can hear the bones, like an open ribcage, moving, contorting…’

‘A Hymn For The Broken’ is a soft, stirring piece which would feel at home in a church. Its low-hanging, weighted progression contrasts with a lighter vocal, the two sides of the spectrum meeting, embracing. The sombre air distances itself from the promise of joy, cutting it in two even as it tries to find solace in a quiet, prayerful way. Sitting near the tail of the album, it’s a reminder, if one was needed, of the darkness before the dawn, and the tension before the break. Fuller leaves the reawakening until the last track, which gives the music a vulnerable air, all too aware of numbered days. While that might induce fear, it’s the natural order of life, and Break accepts that. Sometimes volatile, and at other times incredibly still, the album is described as an ‘emotional riptide, where violence and rest struggle to be the last voice’. The music stirs in the currents, seemingly broken by cruel theatre, while still dazzling with a gentle heart. There’s a bruised innocence about it.

Although Break lies in the middle of a storm, it isn’t adrift. The struggles are its making, a defining moment, and it grows all the stronger because of the experience. When it can finally see an exit, anxieties fall away, dropping like a heavy backpack to the floor, making for the ultimate outbreath, and the ultimate release.

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