• Julian Fane - Special Forces

    Reviewed by Matthew Jeanes (brainwashed.com)

    Julian Fane - Special Forces

    I had been wondering when we'd see the first of the post-Sigur Ros releases to emerge. It's been several years since Iceland's finest wowed listeners just about everywhere and I always imagined that the result would be an avalanche of artists trying to recreate the feeling of being swept up in the epic, weepy tones of bowed guitars and reverb-drenched organs. Julian Fane, a 21-year old Canadian solo artist is the fist thing I've heard that immediately and unquestionably calls forth that otherworldy music from the north, but he does a lot more than that. The release is a bit odd for Planet µ, a label that's made its name more on dancey and not-so-dancey but still beat-centric eclectic electronic artists like Venetian Snares, Jega, Bit_Meddler and so on. Still, there is an undercurrent of strong electronics throughout Special Forces that tips Fane's hand as someone familiar enough with the glitch-beat sound of his contemporaries to know how to pique the µ-Ziq fans' interest. The beats certainly don't take center stage though, as they click and thump under waves of rich and fuzzy synth tones, manipulated acoustic instruments, and occassionally Fane's own voice. It's at this point that my opinion of the record is decidedly split. For most of the tracks, the wintery strings and crackling percussion work well and provide moments of real (and not just emulated) beauty. But when Fane steps in to sing in an unintelligible falsetto, the album tends to derail for me into a place where just sounding like other people's records turns in to trying to recreate them. The first two songs with singing are actually pleasant and well-balanced. While the high-pitched whiny vocal style so reminiscent of Thom Yorke and Jónsi Birgisson isn't my favorite, it doesn't detract from the lush soundscapes into which Fane plants his voice. However, successive songs with vocals deteriorate quickly into what sounds likea parody—this is Jimmy Fallon's impression of Hopelandic and it's funny, but it's not supposed to be. Thankfully, the vocal tracks are far-outweighed by the rest of the album's solid instrumentals. I can certainly forgive the young composer's few vocal missteps on an otherwise excellent debut on which he has created another perfect winter soundtrack for the broken-hearted.

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