Without/ Within is the latest collection of blues-tinged-folk songs from UK's Bear's Den. I've had this EP for a little while (one of the perks of music journalism) and I can safely say, it feels as fresh on my ears now as did the first time I listened to it, some 50 plays ago. I wrote a feature on new track Sahara in which I say how Bear's Den are one of the few modern bands that manage to really hit me with the money shot with their lyrics, themes and instrumentation. Powerful stuff indeed.
Without/ Within is the follow up to their Agape EP where I, and I'm sure many others, were first introduced to and subsequently blown away by Bear's Den. Worry ye not fans of Agape and it's powerful sense of melancholy, Without/ Within IS obviously a different breed of songs for the band, but it's a step forward in all the right ways. It builds on the tentative heartbreak, woven through songs like 'A Year Ago Today' and 'When You Break', transforming songs like 'Sophie' and 'My Lair' into feats of poetic beauty.
In a nut shell, you can expect more tears, more goosebumps and more staring bleakly into the massing clouds outside your window. Somber? Sure, but not oppressively so. Let's take lead single 'Sahara' (which has been split into part's I and II for the EP) as an example. From the opening few bars we already hear something on a larger scale, grander than anything the band have previously attempted. The expansive guitars and that 80's reverb on the snare drum, send the song into the stratosphere. This is of course without even mentioning the lush and opulent harmonies prominent throughout the entire EP.
So how do you go about following a huge, chorally rich song like 'Sahara'? You follow it with 'Don't Let The Sun Steal you Away' (obviously), where bass drums and plucked banjo's give way into a typically rousing chorus hook that will no doubt become a massive fan favourite come touring time. Predecessor 'Writing On The Wall', is a toe tapping, head bobbing foray into the world of folk pop. It's jaunty on the surface but scratching into the song unearths some rather darker themes.
In my feature for 'Sahara', I noted how Bear's Den were like an underrated Mumford and Sons. Well it's time to sit up and start rating them people. Notching up an incredible run of shows, including support for the aforementioned Mumford and Sons, Daughter and Matt Corby, Bear's Den will return to sold out shows in the UK and European tour come next month. If the EP's represent a fraction of what we can expect from a full album release, then Bear's Den are going to be the name on everyone's lips come that day.