• Julian Fane - Special Forces

    Reviewed by Mike Barton (losingToday.com)

    Julian Fane - Special Forces

    If like me there’s a point in the day (usually late a night immersed in a steaming hot bath) where you need to stop for time to call your own, to take only your daydreams or whimsical thoughts for company, then may I recommend you take this charming debut along for the privacy.

    ‘Special Forces’ doesn’t lend itself easily to the rigours of the daytime, its almost privately sensitive demeanour is hopelessly shy in need of your full attention, beneath its irrefutable elegant sheen a simmering untold and bounded passion bubbles away just below the surface waiting to erupt, in fact the last time an album ever affected me this way was Sigur Ros’ ‘Agaetis Byrjum’ and Michael Nyman’s ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’. The former a clearly identifiable release with which to compare given the crystalline seductive sweeps that Fane brings to bear on this debut especially on the gushing eloquence of the stately sounding piano motifs running throughout ‘Freezing in haunted water’ which despite its hollowed recollective sadness rises to moments of exquisite pop exuberance whilst the latter reference point is more to do with the albums inherent underlying essence especially with regard to the tempering of moods and aching tension.

    ‘Special Forces’ is wintry, of that there’s no escape, by means of processed melodies Canadian musician Fane etches away at the glacial plateaus to carve and create graciously suggestive symphonic pirouettes that glow with a sensual warmth. From the breathtaking sense of the vast unknown embarked on the opening cut ‘Disaster Location’ with its stark Stylus like imagery and touching realism of the elements at their most spectacular and threatening to the gentle snow bound march of the scintillating icicle laden ‘Stasis’ whereupon a softening court ship with Sakamoto’s ‘Forbidden Colours’ momentarily develops, there’s a beguiling enchantment that unravels silently and teasingly throughout this delicate and fragile work. A refined Cathedral-esque quality exudes ‘Special Forces’, a numbed almost tragic beauty, the angelic arcs and folds of ‘Safety Man’ twinkle and sparkle with hope through a melancholic orchestral cast very much in the spirit of Mum.

    But then ‘Special Forces’ is not all about softly treaded snatches of distantly recalled memories, scratch a little deeper and there’s a muscular quotient at work within the darkly sinister looping glitch drone of ‘Sea Island’ and the tender like haunting façade at the heart of ‘Darknet’ which comes across like a bleakly frosted half cousin of early Cocteau Twins. The parting ‘Exit New Year’ probably achieves the nigh on impossible feat of bridging the loose bonds of ‘OK Computer’ and ‘Kid A’ to greater effect than Radiohead themselves.

    Yet all said and done, for me the albums centrepiece is the simply gorgeous ‘Book Repository’. As beautiful as any composition has a right to be, it combines a sense of playfulness with an air of the mystique, shimmering divinely in some far flung celestial hideaway to evoke a feeling of melting / transformation or maybe a new dawn. Amid its abandoned hope, its crackling beats, clockwork cycles and ghostly calm recalls last years magnificent ‘Isares’ collection by Manual for Static Caravan while simultaneously capturing the spirit of the more quieter and involved aspects of Jean Michel Jarre’s back catalogue whilst stumbling upon the same enchanted pathways previously trodden by Fortdax. All in all a silently sumptuous release of some measure.

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