GIGsoup’s John Gittins reviews the new album from London trio Fassine
After the rising dominance of the electronica sub-genre ‘trip hop’ in the 90s, there has been a consciousness of the cinematic and epic qualities that electronica holds. Fassine are amongst the many acts to try and emulate the epic proportions and standards set by UNKLE, Massive Attack and Lamb. Based in London, arguably the centre of current English electronica, the three piece combine dissonant and vacant vocals, with a barrage of aggressive percussion and synths; yet still finding gaps for the fragile qualities of their track. Like every debut album there can be the danger of a loss of direction, and although there are flurrying moments, Fassine hold themselves with their craft that blends flawless arrangements with jaded and isolating percussion and vocals.
Fassine open ‘Dialectik’ with one of their weakest tracks ‘Headlong’; a track with an intro that sounds full of mistakes, from untamed gain clicks to sample rate errors, inbetween a surging crescendo of oscilation. However, this epilogue of sorts sounds like a red herring, as the track opens up to a striding beat, complete with Fassine’s signature vocals, resonant of Lou Rhodes. Standing at 4:30 seconds, ‘Headlong’ features an incredible display of themes and developments within the synths, riding against arpgeiating pianos and droned strings. But it feels as though the band is trying to say too much in such a small space, and there isn’t time to focus on the intelligence of the track through all the layers.
After this minor hiccup, the ensembles forte shines through with ‘Bring the Weight Down’, a truly cinematic experience with a Bowie-esque melody that creeps through an intimidating backbeat, and distant reverbs. This is the Fassine that remains consistent through the album. This leads into ‘We Had a Gun’, that combines tremolo cellos, and distorted guitars, for a contrasting blend. The bass line spells out an ‘Angel’ (Massive Attack) inspired riff, but it works brilliantly keeping the intrigue, as the chords and vocals hang on through the structure before fading out beautifully.
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Next up is the band’s already featured single ‘Sunshine’, a track where the vocals overcome everything else, showcasing Sarah Palmer’s vocals over the hypnotic bass driven synths. ‘Sunshine’ stands out as one of the more mezmerisingly uplifting songs on ‘Dialectik’, that never succumbs to the positivity of the song, maintaining the bands ominous aesthetic.
The beauty of the bands cinematic nature allows the music to speak for itself, without a need for imagery or videos to convey. ‘Englander’s use of samples and euphoric structure creates the sporadically ordered chaos that ‘Headlong’ never quite managed, and through the direction creates a story unique to the listeners interpretation.
Desolate and cold imagery is a common provocation within Fassine’s music, and although the connotations are clear, the synergy can sometimes become a little too tiring. The linear climaxes that feature throughout ‘Dialectik’ become foreseeable, and although they still offer surprises, it encompasses the efforts of ‘Black Sheep’ as predictable, no matter how beautiful the productive journeys of the song entails. ‘Kelby’ sees a break from the landscape of synthesizers and low end, for compelling harmonies over an extensive use of acoustic instruments. An established single with a featured music video, the song treads along the spectrum from comfort to vulnerability, enticing a dreamlike sequence to the end of their track.
Despite the efforts of a new band to enter the intriguing realm of cinematic electronica, the majority of the album as a whole remains indistinguishable, from one track to the next. Although there are tells and remnants of standout tracks, the ensemble has a way to go before they may assert their place within British electronica, and regardless of their attempts their feat of an incredible album grants a promising insight into the capabilities of their future releases.
Dialectik is available now on Default Collective Records
This Fassine ‘Dialectik’ album review was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor