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Brighton, based Fear of Men is pleased to present their much anticipated debut album Loom for release in April 21 Kanine Records. The title of the album both alludes to the interweaving textures that run throughout the record and references the darkness that hovers above much of Fear of Mens output. Rather than simply marrying a handful of influences, Fear of Men designs their music from an almost uncomfortably personal place. Weiss broadcasts crippling disconnection, boredom and sexual dread with all the dour verve of a young Morrissey. The band flit between dire philosophical observations and listless melancholia, riding melodies so carefree that anguished sentiments come off more like lazy sighs. The songs owe as much to the writing of Anais Nin or Fassbinder''s films as they do to the cold sonic atmospheres of the Chills or Broadcast. Classical instrumentation appear throughout Loom, warped and distorted alongside musical saws and backwards guitars, giving a sense of the imperfect to the albums pristine pop melodies.
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It is a genuinely lovely and dreamy album of pristine pop songs with a sneaky art rock foundation. The band are a clever lot and like to quote Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath. Musically they have learned their trade well and in particular guitarist Daniel Falvey seems like a bit of a star. Check out the lovely "Waterfall" (not a Stone Roses Cover) with Weiss bittersweet vocal and the chiming backdrop echoing the 80s band the Flatmates. For one moment this reviwer thought the single "Green Sea" was about to break into "Outdoor Miner" by Wire but as it turns out it's a sublime piece of pop music deserving repeated plays. "America" starts off sounding like a folk song and does show the inherent strength of the song writing in the band with a slowish ballad gentling unfurling over a wistful three minutes. With songs like the standout "Descent" the band are locked down for future success; its chiming chords and hooks are an intoxicating mix and this one could trouble charts if some enlightened radio DJ shows some impeccable taste. Finally on "Inside" the albums longest track at over six minutes the band breath out and produce a song of rare quality with just the smallest echo of Beachouse, ditto the previous single "Seer".
Fear of Man are clearly grounded in an late 1980s indie ethic and what is wrong with that? It was a period that produced some great music outside the mainstream and is a rich vein to mine. The further good news is that Fear of Men don't just reference this music they build on it with a delicious set of songs. "Loom" is by no means a world beating or particularly original album yet it is very enjoyable, full of melody, uplifting hooks and imbued with the faintest hint of mystery.
Opening with a short ethereal spoken piece (plus a similar acoustic piece to close the set) the album is full of shimmery guitars over Jessica's very easy on the ear vocals.
They've included some flute and violin for good measure but interwoven through many of the tracks are guitar (or synth?) effects which give the album a more sombre/claustrophobic feel especially on 'inside' which however does start to drag a bit before it's raucous noisy ending.
There are some very catchy tracks e.g 'waterfall' & 'tephra' but a few that pass by unnoticed. However, overall very good and 7.5/10 from me.
On a non-musical aside, the lyric sheet is extremely difficult to extract from the digipack without tearing the sleeve so buyers beware!!
It would have been easy to buy into the hype and produce a paint-by-numbers album. They have safely avoided that pitfall. There’s a very self-conscious and refined approach and sound to Fear of Men's debut album Loom. The way in which the album starts - with the sparse arrangement of "Alta" - allows Jessica Weiss' wistful, tender vocal to take you into its embrace.
A common theme on Loom is how you’re purposefully left in a middle ground of sorts, as you’re not allowed to be drawn in for any considerable amount of time. The driving, deliberate beat accompanied by brisk jangle of dream pop tinged guitar soon snaps you out of the misty eyed daze of the intro track. There are many moments where the band set out their own brand of sound as it flirts with shoegaze still keeps a strong sense of melodic prowess whilst subtly experimenting with composition and texture. Jessica's vocal work that’s often quite dizzying as overdubs of various harmonies busy the scene and combined with gliding guitars soaring over machine gun bursts of percussion on "Tephra" it may sound vaguely familiar, but there’s a sense of urgency that others before them only faintly touched upon
Again, the unpredictable changes. There are moments throughout where the mood can starkly change as they easily transform from a gentle breeze to quite a harsh, abrasive quality. Lyrically, it is just as turbulent, there are fragile moments of heartbreak that suddenly give way to bitterness and violence as featured on "Seer". The constantly moving undercurrent that hides a dark side brings out an unsettling feeling which still somehow pulls you into the depths of the album with heart on your sleeve sentiment. A bold step forward that shows an often forgotten skills of toying with the listening audience.
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