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F Ingers, "Awkwardly Blissing Out"

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cover imageThe second full-length album from this bass-driven Australian "freak unit" is an intriguing evolution from the bleary, haunted atmospheres of 2015's Hide Before Dinner.  For one, the mood is considerably less unnerving, but the trio has also incorporated a significant dub influence (a move that always makes my ears perk up).  Naturally, F Ingers is still as unrepentantly bizarre, prickly, and indulgent as ever, but they seem to found a way to make their fractured nightmares feel a lot more playful, spontaneous, and kinetic.  At its worst, Awkwardly Blissing Out sounds like a batch of willfully wrong-headed, dub-damaged, and sketchlike experiments that blossomed from the corpses of murdered songs.  At its best, however, it transcendently resembles a newly discovered cache of extended and deeply hallucinatory dub remixes of imaginary early UK post-punk classics.

Blackest Ever Black

I have been regularly enjoying Carla dal Forno's gorgeously skeletal deadpan pop for a few years now, but I am embarrassed to say that I only recently began to fully appreciate the unholy alchemy that occurs when she teams up with bassist Tarquin Manek.  On pieces like Tarcar's "Visions of the Night," the duo conjure up some of the most menacing and darkly lysergic music in recent memory.  Their F Ingers project, where they are joined by Manek's Bum Creek bandmate Samuel Karmel, explores a similarly dark and fragmented vision, but does so in far more primitive and stark fashion.  It is a fascinating clash of styles, particularly on the opening "My Body Next to Yours."  The bedrock of the piece is Manek's fairly straightforward bass line, which feels like it has been disembodied from an actual catchy song with a real groove.  Instead of being joined by a cool beat, however, it finds itself unfolding beneath Karmel’s quavering, seasick-sounding synth motifs and intrusive squalls of spacey electronics.  For her part, dal Forno sounds similarly adrift and decontextualized, as her vocals feel distracted and drifting, often overlapping or being chopped into mere word fragments.  It essentially feels like Manek showed up eagerly expecting to make a great post-punk album in the Young Marble Giants vein, but his bandmates turned up in either a somnambulant trance (dal Forno) or in the midst of a complete psychotic break from reality (Karmel).  On paper, that aesthetic train wreck probably should not work, yet it somehow does.

None of the remaining five songs resembles the opener all that much, but there is definitely an overarching theme throughout of taking the elements of a hooky, well-crafted song and impishly deconstructing them or somehow derailing them into endearing outsider wrongness.  For example, "All Rolled Up" brings a drum machine into the mix for a pleasingly burbling groove, but the individual pieces of the song gradually become isolated from one another as the song unfolds.  While everything still fits together and sounds melodic, both dal Forno's vocals and Manek's bass sound like they are occurring separately in empty, reverberant rooms.  The following title piece also features a simmering groove, but the pulse is mostly built from echoing clicks and it is regularly disrupted with jarring howls of dissonant synths.  At some point, a lush synth drone starts to slowly rise in the mix and dal Forno breathily croons a few cryptic lines, yet the components never cohere into anything more concrete than a woozy reverie of skipping delay and hazy drone.  "Time Passes," on the other hand, sounds like band came up with an actual vocal melody and lyrics, then set about gleefully mangling them with effects, pulling everything apart and stretching the song into a fragmented fantasia of dreamy, hiss-ravaged melody and crazily panning drum machine deconstructions.  The album's closer is even more diffuse, as dal Forno’s reverb-swathed vocals hazily float above a pile-up of disjointed strumming and sci-fi-sounding analog synth noodling.

If F Ingers spent the entire time just cheerfully breaking things and crashing their songs into the wall, Awkwardly Blissing Out would still be a fairly compelling and unusual album, but occasionally all their mismatched parts and misused equipment improbably combine to form something beautiful.  The aforementioned "My Body Next To Yours" is one such moment.  The other comes near the end of the album in the form of "You're Confused," which uses a quietly propulsive groove of handclaps and bass as foundation for a swirling fog of echoing melodies, spectral chords, and chopped-up snatches of dal Forno's vocals.  When it hits the mark like that, Awkwardly Blissing Out shares a lot of common ground with Peaking Lights' masterpiece 936, though F Ingers are unquestionably far more aberrant-minded and happy to push their experimentation to a place of more dubious listenability.  That is the only real caveat here: playing with structure and texture is the primary focus here and sometimes good songs emerge from that.  F Ingers are not terribly concerned if they do not, as long as the results are interesting.  As such, this is probably not the place to go to hear any of the participants' finest work, but there are certainly some flashes of brilliance and more outré-minded listeners will find a lot to enjoy in this trio’s mischievous free-form surprises.  In fact, Awkwardly Blissing Out feels perversely like an avant-garde/postmodern party album where karaoke is replaced by increasingly adventurous manglings of dour post-punk classics.  It admittedly is not as catchy as the original songs might be, but seeing how far out F Ingers are willing to go offers a different and far rarer strain of fun.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 01 October 2017 08:44  


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