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Brighten & Break

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Brighten & Break is the debut album by Pollens, the band founded by Hanna Benn and Jeff Aaron Bryant in 2008 at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Right from the start, it was clear that Pollens, which initially performed as a duo, was an extraordinary new band: rather than all-too-familiar patterns, they were pursuing a sound based on polyrhythms, repetitive vocal lines and drone sounds. That concept has now been expanded and refined on Brighten & Break. The band has since grown to become a sextet, and manages to incorporate Moroccan and Congolese structures as well as American and Javanese folk, prog and Krautrock into their sound. According to the band, they also like Stravinsky. But Pollens would not be releasing on Tapete Records if the 11 songs on the album did not also have a clear pop appeal. In addition to the rhythms, the band also features exceptional vocals: ethereal, multilayered, not of this world. For their first concerts, the band worked with choirs of all sizes. Hanna Benn and Jeff Aaron Bryant returned to some of the musicians from these ensembles again and again -- which led to the current line-up in early 2011. In addition to Benn and Bryant, Adam Kozie, Kelly Wyse, Whitney Lyman and Lena Simon are now permanent members of Pollens. All of the band members have studied music, but such specialization is never an end in itself. Brighten & Break was made with the assistance of Morgan Henderson (Fleet Foxes) and Paris Hurley (Kultur Shock) and is a complex, beautiful album. The answer to the question raised by the blogger The Stranger -- "Can brainy music be fun?" -- is clearly a "yes." And what do Pollens say about themselves? "Pollens... Is ensemble singing. Is density and drone. Is modal and polyrhythmic. Is influenced by African trance and contemporary choral music."