(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, July 16, 2010

CD review - Film School, Fission (2010)

Fission (releasing August 31) treats genres like items on a checklist. Shoegaze, progressive rock, indie pop, post punk -- it soon becomes clear that Film School doesn't care about labels. Instead, they have a well planned path to getting a certain sound and setting a mood for each song. The shoegaze droning wall of guitar is a common tool, but Film School also has a psychedelic bent. Their vocal sound is a relative constant: dreamy, cotton swaddled, and distant with reverb. Greg Bertens and bassist Lorelei Plotczyk layer their voices together to create a great vocal dynamic that's vital to their sound.

When I'm Yours drives forward with a post punk bass and guitar setup and krautrock keyboard elements during the bridge. There are flickering scratches of sound like knife blades in the background, much like the muted guitar strings under Romeo Void's Never Say Never. The beat is steady and danceable. When I'm Yours is packed with nervous energy. It only lets up at the end to slide into Time To Listen. This transition is a wonderful moment. The wind down fades and then the bass kicks in.

Time To Listen starts off like a Steve Wilson arrangement, with a steady bass and a slowly shifting guitar figure over the top. The background is full of swells of sound. The combination creates a mood of reflective tension. Plotczyk's vocal is heavily processed and ghostly. The energy kicks up on the chorus. The song walks a fine line between progressive rock and psychedelia.

For a greater contrast, Bones forgoes the dreamy vocals and heavy layering to start out with a simple beat and droning guitar change. Bertens' voice is clean and has a Jonathan Richman simplicity that matches the stripped down sound. As the song progresses, it picks up a New Order vibe, sounding something like Temptation. The interesting thing is how Film School mixes it up to drop some of the musical elements in and out.

So far, Heart Full of Pentagons is the only Fission song released. It also hits that New Order musical space. Download it from AOL Spinner here and give it a listen.

Like a good sangria, Fission has a lot going on, all in perfect balance.