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3.0 out of 5 stars Why Lo-Fang?, 24 Feb 2014
By 
Gannon (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Blue Film (Audio CD)
Lo-Fang is LA-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Hemerlein. And, listening to his debut LP, begs but one question. Why, of all the vaguely R&B-ish acts 4AD could have picked up, have they plumped for Hemerlein? It’s such a nagging question because great swathes of his Blue Film seem to do little to justify the faith and it’s not like there’s a shortage of such artists.

Take “When We’re Fire” for example. Its template of fairly bland, possibly auto-tuned but passable synth-indebted pop is a recurrent theme. The title track is more of the same, except now with added bass-tone generator to expand the sonic range. All about the marriage of Hemerlein’s tender falsetto and dancing instrumentation, “#88” is solid in a similar vein, but so too is it overlong, drawn out with unspectacular composition.

There are moments of salvation though that save the project from complete anonymity/disaster. Hemerlein’s symphonic skills, which suggest at those of Owen Pallett should he develop a penchant for spectral neo-soul, are rarely tested but they are frequently put to pleasant use, such as during the svelte electro-pop opener “Look Away”, a track that breaks down at its midpoint to reveal a sparse and mournful lament. The trended string interjections in the otherwise drippy “Light Year” are a highlight too when all else is glitchy minimalism that, if it weren’t so politically incorrect, you’d be inclined to give a good shake and tell it to get a grip.

For every silver lining however there’s a rather off-putting black cloud. So, while the awkwardly sexual “Animal Urges” gets the focus right, blurring a busy string palette with neat pop hooks, the deeply creepy “Boris” has Hemerlein grooming some unfortunate with downright questionable lyrics that unsettle what is a decent premise.

Amongst other things, you get the impression Hemerlein has been an avid student of the likes of Tom Krell and the decent “Confusing Happiness” is about at close to the How To Dress Well-school of spectral soul as he gets. In fairness it’s not a bad stab at melancholy, mutant R&B, but what you’re going to remember Blue Film for however is Hemerlein’s unbelievably unnecessary and highly suspect cover of the Grease standard “You’re The One That I Want”. They say in order to make a good cover you’ve got to make it your own and he does, but this one’s got to be heard to be believed.

Chances to impress at labels like 4AD don’t come around every day and, if Blue Film is anything to go by, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing a second Lo-Fang LP anytime soon when push comes to shove.

Best tracks: “Animal Urges” and “Confusing Happiness”
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Blue Film [VINYL]
Blue Film [VINYL] by Lo-Fang (Vinyl - 2014)
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