House of Tolerance, the debut album from Brazilian band Cambriana, is truly a product of its age. What began as lead singer Luis Calil writing by himself in his bedroom, soon became a two man project when he invited fellow musician Wanderson Meireles into the creative process. However, due to a grand (and literal) distance between the two of them, the writing process took place over the internet, as they exchanged ideas until, after two years from its original conception and the invitation of a few other musicians, House of Tolerance emerged. Without the internet, the album might never have emerged sounding the way it did (even the photo on the album’s cover comes from someone Calil met on a messageboard), and it’s facts like this that help make the music here sound a little more poignant.
The actual sound of the music, though, is one of the interesting traits of the album. The majority of the album was recorded at home by the band’s various members, and, consequently, there’s a charming self-produced sound to be heard – the music never gets too in your face, even when it’s at its most vibrant. The snazzy horns on opening track “Vegas” seem to swagger by casually as opposed to taking the focus away from the song altogether, while the rippling guitar work at the end of “Swell” is easy to miss due to it being melded carefully into its surroundings, making the song’s climax more subtle than it is.
What these home-recorded sounds do do though, is allow the parts that were recorded in a studio to really shine through more, without taking the focus away or sounding out of place. Calil’s vocals are a consistently appealing feature of the music here, always wavering about pleasantly in a familiar sounding timbre that sounds like the result of someone singing in a language that isn’t their mother-tongue. He sells everything with a sort of informal honesty, and while his lines might not always be exact rhymes, his considered melodies help make the songs memorable, trickling their way into your head, somewhere.
Elsewhere, the instruments gleam: the bellowing guitar on “Astray” sounds like it’s trying to playfully imitate the horns from the previous track; the driving organ on “Face To Face” adds suspense during the song’s verses; and the dreamy banjo work on “Waitress”, where Calil’s voice hits its most affecting notes. Despite having plenty of styles on offer – from the brooding synth driven “Safe Rock” to the glimmeringly upbeat “Big Fish” – the whole album comes off a well-melded whole. This works in the bands favour in that listening through from start to finish can feel delightfully easy (once it gets the pace going after the first two tracks, which are solid tracks but seem to start and stop the pace), but subsequently it can all sound much the same, and apart from “Waitress”, it never feels like it’s breaking out into interesting territory too often.
And this is strange because, as I said, there’s plenty on offer here, and it can evoke the sound of plenty of other bands, making it sound even more familial and easier on the ears. “Swell” sounds like the band’s own take on Grizzly Bear’s “While You Wait For The Others”, while both the light and smooth guitars on “Better Days” and the paranoid itching ones on “Face to Face” recall The National (or, perhaps, The National imitators NO).English band Field Music seem to have made their impact on the band too, as their sound can be heard on a track like “Better Days”, or on the vocal harmonies at the beginning of “Waitress”.
Still, the band are – quite evidently – capable of creating a song to call their own, “The Sad Facts” being a prime example. The song starts off relatively simple – a drum beat and some minor piano chords – but soon finds an appealing pace and before you realize it, amidst wiggling synth lines, subtlety placed strings and Calil’s warming melodies, it has wandered into your head. This isn’t the only example, though, and the band certainly prove their worth in a well-paced 38 minutes. It’s just they lack that spark that makes me want to break out the hyperbolic superlatives. Nonetheless, House of Tolerance is a good – if not great- first effort, and should they survive the age that made them, they’ll have plenty more to offer that’ll hopefully top the music here.