fortdax

archive review originally posted on the losing today site c. 2004 …..

FORTDAX
FOLLY
(Tugboat)

Attempting to consider writing and composing a follow up to a heady debut must be one thing, actually putting the whole thing into process must not only be daunting but considerably fraught with the expectation of others hovering in the aisles. What may have been once a private affair, a spot of hobbyist antics that somehow slipped into the realms of interested ears, what may well have been a pet project suddenly begins to grow a heart beat of it’s own, instead of being the controller, the creator becomes the controlled. Some will rehash the successful template for fear of alienation other more braver souls will cynically try to unravel and dispose of any notion of a pop concept while not deliberately trying to lose their fan base but more realistically pushing them to the edge of perceived tolerance (Radiohead). For this reason follow-ups are traumatic things. So why then am I saying this, simply because last years limited pressing of FortDax’s debut album ‘At Bracken’ on the ever eclectic ear for electronics label Static Caravan, was a soothing collection of symphonic pop straight out of Narnia, the romantic teasing of the melodies within were enough to make the hardiest of hearts skip a beat or two.

Little under a year on, another year older and now with a new label deal Darren Durham, for it is he who is FortDax dusts down the lurve laptop for some more visits to the back off the closet into fabled worlds of enchantment.

Those expecting pretty much a revisit to the kingdom of the Snow Queen may be glad to hear that parts of ‘Folly’ do draw heavily on the previously distinct fluffy filled themes, but that’s not to say that this is ‘At Bracken’ part 2, no not all, instead ‘Folly’ extends the boundaries to encompass lush textures and complex arrangements, the basics are still there, ‘Folly’ is awash with symphonic grandeur but what really makes it so fascinating is that classic French electronic pop in the name of Air and Jean Michel Jarre which rubbed against the cold, monolithic Germanic melodies of notables such as Kraftwerk is now flavoured by a Far Eastern feel, in amongst all this the memories of ISAN, Vengelis and Debussy remain flitting in and out of the frame like passing ghosts.

As for the actual album what can you say, now peppered by tracks with vocals courtesy of Acid Mothers Temple’s Cotton Casino and the rare event of the whispered murmurs of Mr Durham himself, ‘Folly’ is smoulderingly poppy. Twelve tracks that kick off (as it does closes) with the sounds of a musical box, ‘Both mirror and armour’ has you imagining Nellie the Elephant moon walking such is it’s goofy sweetness. ‘Sakura’ offers a marked contrast, a Far Eastern flavour emerges with the sensual echoes as Cotton Casino guides the celestial circus, if ‘At Bracken’ was steeped in icy flows of fairy tale delights then FortDax sets ‘Madam Butterfly’ to automation. The albums centrepiece arrives early on, ‘Oxenfolly’ is one of those tracks that just needs to be heard to be fully appreciated, sumptuously graceful arrangements arc majestically in celestial formations, very reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre circa ‘Magnetic Fields’ out on a sunny day solar skating with ISAN with Nyman choreographing the figure 8’s, a dreamy minuet and as melodically muscular as anything he’s composed before, each textured offshoot is neatly pulled together to form a delicious aural tapestry that spreads it’s arms invitingly. An epic performance.

‘Seed sleeps under eden’ gallops along cosmically creating swirls of intergalactic love notes and which leads seductively to the minimalist drone like space foxtrot rhythms of ‘the child cat is crying out now’ which evokes all the chic mystique of early Visage. ‘Onze lieve vrouwen gasthuis’ revisits the wintry laden scenery of ‘At Bracken’ for another brief and delicate peak for a spot of snowball fighting. Ghostly choirs and hymnal overtures melt graciously on ‘We cach cama, su Jaan am’ before the lights go out and we’re tucked up for bed with the sleepy lullaby curtain call of ‘These quills’.

Irresistible stuff, every home should have one.

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