Sunday, August 21, 2011

Froe Char - A New Swan's Death [Free Loving Anarchists]

This was a good lesson to never judge a tape by it's cover. There was a picture of a super goth'd woman on the inside who I gather is Froe Char, the title A New Swan's Death was not givin' me good vibes (perhaps because I really hated that fuckin' Black Swan movie which was fresh in my mind at the time) and I really had no clue what Froe Char meant or how I was supposed to pronounce it. I guess that goes a long way to expose my prejudices of goth-looking album photos, the word "swan" used in conjuction with "black" or "death" and, of course, band names that confuse me. You know what showed me the error of my ways? Actually listening to the tape. It's a brief one but pretty dang good too.
Released by Texan label Free Loving Anarchists, Froe Char drops 8 songs in 20 or so minutes. Each is steeped in reverb but never really sounds spacey or euphoric to its credit.
"Morning Rax" pounds away on a rudimentary acoustic guitar with multi-tracked voice, practically drowned out by all the echoes surrounding them. "In Waste" rolls along on a two-chord guitar progression, sloshed vox and minimal drum machine taps with a fantastically subtle counter-melody appearing midway through that really sells me on the jam. For as simple as the song is, Froe Char did a hell of a job creating a ton of depth and texture in the arrangement. This has slowly become one of my favorites on the tape. The following track, "Seppuku," which may or may not be about samurai, I can't tell, was the instant stand-out my first time through. It really hustles. Sharp organ tones and a relentless drum machine keep the energy jacked from the get go and from there the artist has a lot of fun arranging soft, melting vocals and other subtle, nearly subliminal instrument parts. Not too much fun though, as the track feels like it only lasts for a minute. The title track seals up the first side. Plenty of flanged whooshes fly through track which is built around a basic acoustic arpeggio.
I can almost understand the lyrics in "Saying Again" which is a first for the tape. It's a very pretty ballad, with all the instrumentation blending into an almost effervescent coating. "The Arsonist" is another favorite. A sizzling, uptempo drum machine pump-pump-pumps underneath an excellent bassy guitar riff. Aside from multi-tracked vocals, that's the extent of the arrangement but, damn if it's not a potent combination. "Resume" cools it down a notch with a keyboard beat, round organ tones and slurred, spoken lyrics. "The Burial Song" is a great choice to close on. The most open sounding guitar on the tape appears, strummed gently with a really great (and a little bit eerie) keyboard melody leading the way.
All in all, this is a really cool tape. There are certainly some standouts but the more important quality to note is there are no duds. Froe Char has a great sound (I hesitate to make a comparison to Grouper or someone of that ilk since Froe Char seems to approach her music with a more energetic viewpoint) but most importantly there are some great ideas underneath the reverb. A promising voice in the blandscape of hushed, reverb-buried songwriters.
It looks like Free Loving Anarchists still has a few copies of the tape on sale for a fiver. Edition of 80 copies.

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