Part II: The New December
Los Angelean Fol Chen belongs to an elite cadre of musicians (i.e. Enon, Rafter, Starlight Mints, Xiu Xiu) who make albums into careers. Each record these bands make is something reflective of progression that most artists might achieve if given 40 years; the music is unpredictable at the macro and micro level with every song steeped a different style. And in the case of Fol Chen they master any genre they get their hands on, then pioneer new ground via cross pollination of the gamut (they describe their sound as “You know that mysterious black object that the creepy family is staring at on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Presence album? Fol Chen sound(s) like that.”)
Purportedly directed by main men Samuel Bing and Julian Wass (despite occasional internet cock blocking, the band relishes in mysterious anonymity), the sextet flits around the 15/8 meter opener (“The Holograms”) with ball-busting gated tom toms, glitching circuits, punctuating acoustic guitar notes and twee female vocals. With its breathy near-falsetto and three-part harmonies, “C/U” could be a lost ‘N Sync b-side, though one where Timbaland’s lopsided Casio symphony got him kicked off the project for being “too weird”. Dance punk tempos meet squirrely toy guitar recordings, kooky pseudo-Latin accents and a placid-yet-snarling vocal on “They Came to Me”. Liars’ Angus Andrews and Aaron Hemphill contribute to a Greek chorus of whispers and otherwise aesthetics to the stomping “This is Where the Road Belongs”. As demonstrated on the fey flute and frame-drum driven “Holes” and the eerie stoner strum of “Men, Beasts or Houses”, the group is also capable of occasional meditating calm.
There are points during the disc when you wish the rollercoaster would relent, but that is beside the point: Fol Chen are pop experimentalists, deft song-writers and immaculate producers who have a lot to say – so hang on! Those who can…do.