Given my ties to the band, I suppose I should start out by saying that I am, obviously, biased in favor of all things Gates. If that’s too close a bond for you, that’s fine. You’re more than welcome to head somewhere else on the internet to read any number of glowing reviews of Bloom & Breathe, an album that has been released to seemingly universal critical praise.
And why shouldn’t it be praised? Bloom & Breathe is that rarest of creatures, an album so totally engrossing and complete in its scope that it is wholly fulfilling. The only thing that Bloom & Breathe will leave you wanting is to listen to the record over again. It will be called a post-rock album because that is the label that has already been affixed to the Gates brand but with the violence of ‘At Last the Loneliest of Them,’ the hooks of ‘Born Dead,’ and the melancholia of ‘Marrow’ it is so, so much more. The palpable anguish of ‘The Thing That Would Save You,’ in which vocalist Kevin Dye laments “I have never been so terrified of losing someone I love to their own disease, but I can’t be the one who can save you from yourself,” is worth the price of admission all on its own.
Following in the footsteps of the self-titled releases from Gates’ East Coast scene-mates Owel and now-defunct overseas heroes Grammatics, Gates has crafted an album that, through the sheer brilliance of the songwriting and musicianship on display, is able to canvas not only a vast array of sonic landscapes but also an impressive range of human emotion. If you believe, as I have suggested in the past, that the goal of art is to communicate the human experience, then Bloom & Breathe with its earth-shattering power, epic optimism, and soul-rending introspection is an album that simply must be heard.