Monday, 21 April 2014

Fear Of Men - Loom Review

The juxtaposition of dark lyrics with intricate melodies and ethereal vocals  is nothing new. From Cocteau Twins and Dirty Projectors to Daughter and Agnes Obel; this sub-genre of art pop/adult alternative/dream-rock has always been a sound that many bands and artists strive for. However, you would be foolish to assume that Fear of Men are just another band trying to emulate the quality that any of  above naturally achieve but ultimately fail. Loom is in fact a very special record from a very special band who use delicate soundscapes and barbed-wire lace pop hooks to create a debut album which is both accessible and heart-wrenching to the extent where you are engulfed by the concept of the record entirely. 

What initially wet my appetite for this release was the phenomenal buzz single 'Waterfall' which bursts out from the docile intro track 'Atlas' with its thundering drums and the euphoric harmonization of Jess Weiss' vocals. Beneath the track's sugar-coated exterior lies a venomous serpent in the form of Weiss' lyrics, 'I bit your cheek, the blood runs down your face', she sings. The running presentation of water as a destroyer is another poignant theme in the lyrics. On 'Tephra', one of the album's more uptempo tracks there is the line 'The waves are calling you, they'll take it all' while on the track 'Green Sea' Weiss 'bends beneath the water top, where you left me'. The concept of escapism is also explored on Loom, particularly on the wistful 'America' in which Weiss is 'free to dissolve' as she's 'drifting out of reach'. What makes the lyrics so skillful is that that, despite the abstract imagery, what Weiss is singing about is a lot more relatable that you may think; We can all relate to feelings of love, heartbreak and the loss of control. Fear Of Men avoid the pitfall of pretentiousness and over-ambition through their overt use of pop hooks, particularly on the standout track 'Decent' which, with it's playful melody and rumbling guitar-laced hooks recalls a more euphoric Blondie.  

The visuals for this record are heavily influenced by volcanic eruptions and what they leave behind, the carbonized human and animal remains in their artwork being prime examples of the latter. However it is the imagery of  eruptions themselves which strike me as the most relevant to the record sonically speaking. The majority of tracks on Loom descend into a beautifully chaotic onslaught of brash noise and cinematic string arrangements, perhaps representing  pyroclastic flows as they engulf and suffocate you. This is best seen on the penultimate track 'Inside' which, after floating for 5 or so minutes on jittering drum beats and delicate vocal hooks descends into a frankly terrifying yet beautiful noise. This, the album's most cinematic moment is balanced by the brittle guitar hooks and vulnerable vocal styling on the closer 'Atla', which ends the album on a much welcomed positive note.

From the soaring melodies of tracks like 'Waterfall' and 'Decent' to the more delicate and ethereal  moments such as 'America' and 'Atla', Fear Of Men exhibit their diversity as well as their consistency on this stunning record. They manage to succeed where many of their contemporaries fall short; they are able to balance the light with the dark, the tame with the raucous and the vulnerable with the resilient. Due to the brevity of Weiss' lyrics and the masterful instrumentation, courtesy of Daniel Falvey and Michael Miles amongst others, every track on Loom is a show-stopper in it's own right. I struggle to imagine another debut album released this year to even come close to what Fear Of Men have achieved with this record.


Key Tracks: 'Waterfall', 'Green Sea', 'Tephra', 'Luna', 'Decent', 'Inside'

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