Genre: Ghost Folk / Dark Folk / Psych Folk
A1) April Showers
A2) Rites of Spring
A4) No Knight Errant
B1) Black Horses
B2) The Gallows
B3) Wandering Fool
B4) Summer Song
B5) Fallen Kings
B6) Halloween Moon
Mike Bruno is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native who typically records under the moniker “Mike Bruno and the Black Magic Family Band”. This group, much like Silvester Anfang circa 2008/2009, is highly susceptible to change and while the aforementioned group didn’t contain a primary member, Mike Bruno is the main man behind his assembly of artists as is hinted at by the name. The Sad Sisters, however, is curiously released simply under his own name “Mike Bruno”. Don’t worry though, The Black Magic Family Band’s psych folk tidings are still in the works and there is a 7″ EP due out next month on Marmara Records, a new record label out of Austin, Texas that is specializing in simply releasing great music in limited pressings. It would seem that this release is specifically just Mike Bruno and his wonderful vocal and guitar work in the realm of dark ethereal folk.
The Sad Sisters has been defined genre-wise as “Turnpike Ghost Folk” by the label Haute Magie, and that phrase defines the whole sound that Mike Bruno incorporates fairly well. This is dark folk with an ethereal, surreal texture — a sound that constantly sounds as if its enshrouded in fog. It’s not a claustrophobic sound, actually rather the opposite. It is quite open-aired, but you feel as if you’re being led through something throughout the entirety of the journey. The album isn’t necessarily flowing however, only various tracks are such as the opener “April Showers” which breathes much like the traditional American folk songs of the sixties and seventies. After this, the music gets pretty bleak and largely showcases Mike Bruno’s unique, sometimes scratchy, creaky creaky vocals — vocals that most of the time harmonize beautifully as in immediately in Rites of Spring, and other times can get chaotic through difficult melodies in Lovebirds. Its clear that as a singer, Mike Bruno isn’t simply an amateur — he has a great deal of skill. The guitar writing at times feels like it could be more ornate / textured, but there aren’t any mistakes to speak of other than the occasional loud finger-to-string scrape that was probably intentionally left in the mix to add to the deeply reverbed production.
Side B of the LP opens up strangely, first because the single / video used for promoting the album was made for the first track, Black Horses, which is particularly uplifting in sound in comparison to the darkness that resides throughout the rest of the album. The same can be said for it’s companion track, “The Gallows”, which again comes off as largely content in sound. Regardless, arguably the darkest track on “The Sad Sisters” follows shortly with “Wandering Fool”, a creaky, brooding track that that lingers with spectral intent. Unearthly in every way, from Bruno’s sinister vocal performance to the overwhelmingly suffocating, ominous guitar/piano dual melodies, Wandering Fool seethes from the seams with an antiquated delirium that borders on the point of ire at one point. “Summer Song” exists somewhere between Current 93′s “All the Pretty Little Horses” and “Soft Black Stars”, while “Fallen Kings” takes on a vintage wyrd folk appear with its effective Casio-style synth effect. Halloween Moon, the final track on the album is the most ornate composition-wise, featuring more unique effects and some resplendent, delicate guitar bridge work.
Frankly, I couldn’t be more impressed with a debut release from a solo singer song-writer. The past year has been full of incredible debuts from new folk projects from Jacques, a Robin, Sangre de Muerdago, and others, and with the likes of Mike Bruno now entering the scene as well, the future seems very promising. Furthermore, Haute Magie has impressed with having the foresight to release such an album in their first trio of offerings, and as such the future looks bright for them as well.