JULIAN FANE - Special Forces
Although ‘interesting’ is not a very interesting word, I would still apply it, in a positive fashion, to this debut release from Julian Fane, which could turn out to be an uncut diamond. Special Forces is an untypical release from the Planet Mu label, which usually prefers to concentrate on uptempo, break-driven tunes. However, this is primarily and ambient album, with attitude, that certainly shares similarities to a number of other artists; for instance, the stark, melancholy temperament of Radiohead, the muddy, fuzzed electronic collages of Christian Fennesz and the gloomy but technical values of Sigur Ros or Mum, particularly vocally. Whatever, these artists would certainly give you a good idea of what to expect.
The album begins with Coronation, as a muddy wall of blurred synthesized sounds, rolling drums and chimes result in an inconspicuous but compulsive ambient instrumental, the latter Sea Island also runs a similar course. Fane likes to build up his tracks, enveloping them opaque layers of sound and noise, hence the weaving strings of Safety Man, which are joined by melodic, monotonous vocals, choral synths and more marching drum rolls for another enigmatic, but grandios track. Birthday Boys follows in the same vein, as strings wash back and forth in a persistent sway, driving the track towards a stormy climax. My favourite track however, is the excellent Taoist Blockade, which spills melody from every crack of it’s punctured, ragged, creaking environmental wall of noise.
Special Forces pretty much panders to the same formula throughout, with varying degrees of success, but it’s definitely well ahead of schedule for a debut. Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the album initially, I have to admit it’s a real grower and I expect it to grow on me more over the coming months. I still have reservations about the whiny vocals though, which are often more of an irritant than an accompniament; although they feature on relatively few tracks. Whilst it’s natural to make comparisons to other artists, if only as a guide, I would call this an particularly striking release for those with an affection for the hazy, experimentalism of Christian Fennesz. Fane certainly has a similarly bright future.
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