Alright, here's a full track-by-track review. It's crazy, but when you've got an album as heartfelt, as intimate, as honest as this one...there's no way you can pass up the emotions. And I think this is the best way for me to let those emotions go, so bear with this, hehe.
btw yes i am trained to write full formal critiques bwahhaha maybe i can start something here. anyway.
RFJ - Of Storybook and Sound (IDMf043)
It takes a lot of willpower to be honest. To carve your emotions into music without holding back. It's ironic, because the "storybook" portrays artist RFJ as some serial liar - he admits it so openly in there that it's scary. But in contrast, when you take a listen to these tracks, you hear sheer honesty. It's that feeling of genuine honesty that makes this album so intimate - so close to heart.
If you haven't read the "storybook" yet, you'll definitely still be able to appreciate the "sound". But the fact is that in reading artist RFJ's heart-wrenching story, bearing - spoiler alert - no clear resolution, you'll see how these powerful tracks are a mirror of the artist's emotions. Needless to say, it's - excuse me - fucking amazing.
The album begins with White Flags
, which opens with a surreal filtered choir, juxtaposed with a de-tuned drone in the lower register. Out of nowhere, a girl's voice is heard - "Maybe they can help us". The atmosphere created is, ironically, not of surrender, but that of suspense. Simple suspense - as if there's no resolution, and there's going to be no resolution.
The drums enter, masterfully paralleled to the atmosphere; I think it's necessary to state somewhere that one of the highlights in this album is the masterful use of drums.
From the beginning of the album, artist RFJ carves out a soundscape that cannot be described using the "genres" which we define music by. It comes across as "ambient", it comes across as "breaks", but in the end, you have no idea what the hell is going on, because face it - when you have an album that involves such beautiful intimacy, there's no way it's going to be normal.
begins on a much darker note, white noise sweeps dominating over the dark pads. The girl's voice returns - you hear her saying something, but it's unclear (or maybe I'm just asian). The drums enter, once again, masterfully. The atmosphere created in this is dark, almost hateful. Resonant pads punctuate the atmosphere, creating a sense of looming - as if something's brewing inside. If you interpret into the title a bit, it could be a representation of dark, destructive thoughts. And it's so beautifully portrayed that it's scary.
The Last Analysis
opens up with delayed synth comps, skilfully blended with drums. This progresses into a section bearing much more tension, and once again, the foreboding returns, as the girl's voice is heard again - "magic". There's a tiny period of rest as the beat breaks, to the command of the girl. The breakdown is followed quickly be her voice again - "Dad, can I stay home?", and the beat enters, distorting the voice, creating a beautifully haunting atmosphere. "Last"
bears an atmosphere more haunting than any other track in this album. And that's sweet.
A Narrow Escape
is clearly the highlight of this album - detuned piano juxtaposed skilfully with fragments of the girl's voice; fragments of drum beats. The drum fragments start to come together, and it eventually culminates into a summation of everything - echoes of the girl's voice (with beautiful stereo delay by the way), the calls of the dark pads, and a beat that is nothing short of surreal. The track ends abruptly, but executed so well that it's effective.
"Disturbing" is the best word for this. It's a track that you can never rest your finger on. It's not that type of track that comes back to haunt you at night, but it's definitely the type of track that you would look back on and feel that sense of unresolved conflict.
The album concludes with Morning
, title connoting a resolution of some sort - something that we have seeked since the start of this album. Stereo delayed acoustic guitars kick start the track, backed by a mild drum beat - it sets a contrast with the rest of the album. The girl's voice is heard again, but more significantly, the laughter of someone is heard, punctuating the tranquility of this. Dark, un-modulating pads attempt to add to the tranquility, but ultimately find themselves creating that familiar haunting atmosphere, as if there are still shadows in the morning.
And thus, the album concludes unresolved. Beautifully unresolved.
If you haven't downloaded this album already, you need to be stoned to life. Because an album of such honest, of such genuine sincerity, takes you on a sixteen-and-a-half minute journey to the honest realities of life. I'm not the guy to put scores on albums, but this album doesn't deserve a score - it falls into a category so unexplored by modern music that it's impossible to judge it the same way.
In conclusion, when you do listen to this album, keep your heart open. Let the emotions which artist RFJ is trying to paint sit in you.
And read the story. It's pretty cool.