Like other Sacred Bones artists, EFFI BRIEST make dark rock that’s gothic without the baggage. They get to use those clichés — snakey basslines, Arab-esque scales and wails — without coming across as clichés themselves. There’s no particular locus to their sound. Singer Kelsey Barrett has a nag in her voice that’s more “Hong Kong Garden” than “Dazzle," but their meandering creepiness is as much post-hippy as post-punk. These songs could have wandered out of a Munich commune in 1972, or a crusty squat 20 years later. With six members, you’d expect the sound to be dense. Extra percussion, accordion, clarinet and keys are in there. Yet, these songs are never busy. They tend to have loosely connected sections rather then verses and choruses, and despite the number of players, parts fade in and out of the foreground, rather than coming together in harmony. Heavy on atmosphere, it’s a series of cold splashes.
The members of EFFI BRIEST aren’t afraid to start out tense and bright, then let a song disintegrate. Lively bass is the only constant on “Mirror Rim." Guitars start out equally buoyant, but give up on an interlocking pattern. As they dissipate, it leads to sounds like backward-rolling tape. Given that the title is a palindrome, there’s probably a formal game at work, especially since the backward sounds appear at the exact midpoint of the running time. That self-consciousness is well buried, though. Nearly every song here unfolds in a satisfying and surprising way, even as they lack the sort of hooks or crescendo that would help them get attention in deficit-disorder attention span of indie.
What they lack in approachability they make up for with a weirdness — both the witchy sense of the word and the eccentric sense. They’ve been at this a while — Dusted profiled them at the start of 2007. This album collects singles as well as newer tracks, but it all sounds apiece of the track from four years ago. The shadows EFFI BRIEST works with aren’t new — “Night” starts like The Doors’ “The End” — but it achieves a grandeur that couldn’t happen if this was an easier read. These tracks are growers, vines that stay low and wrap around you gradually.