Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fowls' Into the Wild on LP

I tried to do a Google search on this album so I could get a little more background on this local band that records for bettyElm Records here in Syracuse, and here's what I got:

Stalking the Wild Ur-chicken (National Audobon Society)
When Chickens Go Wild (Nature News and Comment)
Poultry (Wikipedia)

With a little perseverance I was able to get a little more info. This quartet is actually from Rochester, which is about 75 miles from where I'm sitting right now. But this is one of the beautiful slabs of vinyl dropped off by Jen Bort of bettyElm, and after a single listen I was immediately intrigued by the ambitiousness of their songs despite their stripped-down aesthetic. Fowls specialize in tricky time signatures without being pretentious about it; the jagged edges of these songs do nothing to subvert the uplifting melodies and interplay between the guitars, despite the "math-rock" label Fowls gladly accept. More than once I was reminded of Television's Marquee Moon. After listening to Into the Wild, I was compelled to play that landmark album just to compare. The similarities aren't obvious, but they are there.

This album, originally released in 2013, took the band two years to make. The focus of their sound is contained in the instrumental volleys between guitarists Ruben Vazquez and Vadim Ovcharov, but it's also surprising how quickly the overall sound can drift from the complex into the lyrical--such as on the beautiful instrumental "Brother." Your ears will also perk up when you hear a certain familiar '80s pop-riff in "Yanaguana"--I'm being cryptic here because for the life of me I can't remember the original song or who sings it! Somebody help me here! It's really friggin' obvious!

The most impressive thing about Fowls is that despite the thorny math-rock pigeonhole they've been placed in, you'll be surprised at just accessible this album is. Songs like "Genoa" and "Just Ask Me" have a lively danceability and energy that wouldn't be out of place at the beach during a Caribbean vacation--which perhaps explains why those two songs lead into a third titled "Montego Bay." Perhaps that's because the rhythm section--bassist Aleksandar Nikolovski and drummer Ricardo Vazquez--have a clean, precise and sunny sound that brings structure to the more complicated textures provided by the two guitars.

Want a little more motivation to check this album out? It's available on their Bandcamp site for just $8. It's a very nice pressing, too, especially for a small indie label. Less finesse in the studio may have resulted in a busier sound, but this is surprisingly natural and coherent.

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