Leeds-based four piece band Green Gardens have established themselves firmly in the local gig scene over the last few years, breaking the stereotype of “boys with guitars” with their meaningful music and sharp talent. However, in April this year, they took the unpredictable decision to remove the majority of their previously released musical content from streaming sites. ‘Sauna, Teach Me How to Breathe‘ signals a break from the past, and a completely new era for their sound.
Recording the EP from an isolated cottage in the countryside of Wales, it’s what the band coyly describes as an earnest “love letter” to the world around us. At times the manic nature of the songs is reminiscent of cabin (or cottage) fever, though the pastoral elements always seem to break through. Yet, with a heavy incorporation of keys that’s new to their music and gorgeously layered harmonising vocals, it’s a genre-spanning exploration that shows the band spreading their wings.
As one would expect, there are moments of softness and calm across the album, but that’s not all. ‘Buried In Snow‘, the first single released from this project, feels somewhat misleading when listened to alone – its unexpected blasts of riffs and drum beats are a shock to the system, heavier than anything the band has done before. Raspy harmonised vocals push this track towards what could be rock ballad territory, with lashings of tambourine thrown in for good measure. It’s a compelling piece, expressing the self-described “call to arms” that the band proposes against those who abuse the planet.
Versatility comes easily to this band. The contrast of ‘Buried In Snow’ with the rest of the EP is remarkable – the other tracks collectively are softer, smoother and more melancholy. This single functions within the EP as a wild climax after the build-up of each track before.
The opening track, ‘Samson/Sauna’, is almost the polar opposite of ‘Buried in Snow’. It eases open the album with haunting piano chords, and low, sweet vocals that set the nerves at ease. Indeed, it’s the vocals that captivate a listener here- incredibly emotive, with every lyrical choice seemingly deliberate and poignant. Vocalist Jacob Cracknell softly and sombrely tells us what he wishes for;
“Where is my something raw and real, something time can heal?”
It’s almost self-descriptive. The yearning tone is only added to with slow and punctual percussion, and melodic guitar calls; midway through there’s a transitionary point, where more instruments and atmosphere burst into the track, creating a more uplifting feeling.
Second released single ‘To Leave Her Alone’ builds to dizzying heights, a marching pace drum beat pushing the song along. There are moments of both franticness and stillness, like being suddenly swept up into the very eye of a hurricane, from the depths of a storm- “ocean, oh ocean” is beseechingly repeated, as the vocals soar up and down the scale. The band exhibits incredible control over the energy of the song, which ebbs and flows over its duration.
It’s a song with complex structure, much like the following track ‘The Nature of Us’; though this one is much more ethereal and strange, akin to music from a different world. Jarringly jagged pangs of guitar unexpectedly break through its dreamy tonality. Vocalist Jacob Cracknell’s intonations wander across the song, earnest and wise in their pitched-up lyricism. “Paradise is different for everyone”, he tells us, this weighted phrase building to a reverent chant at the conclusion of the song.
The final track comes all too soon. ‘Arran’ feels like an end to the story, a nostalgic and reflective piece that doesn’t rush but revels in slowness and softness, and aims to stir something in its listeners. It speaks of leaving on a journey – to the Isle of Arran, or otherwise something more intangible – a bittersweet unearthly farewell. The band speaks directly to us in every deliberate word, each layer of raw and moving vocals: “Can you feel the wind in our sails? Please set yourself free.” With this, the band relinquish control.
‘Sauna, Teach Me How to Breathe’ is a true tour de force. The unrelenting effort of the musicians shapes each song, each piano key and muted chord and mournful vocal call working to encapsulate a sound that the band has been working towards since their first releases. It’s an undeniably atmospheric collection of music: offbeat noises like a lighter click and a cough (and more jarringly, a low scream) creep in to lend personality. You almost feel present in that windswept little cottage in Wales where the record was recorded, its earthy isolated nature seeping into the songs. When the vocals fade away on that final track, we are offered one final glimpse into the microcosmic world of this EP; the sounds of nature take over, for a while, until silence.