Is The Idea Of Us is a stripped back album from New Fries, who having mutated through a number of changes after the departure of their synth player Ryan, became the trio of Anni (bass, vocals), Tim (guitar, sampler) and Jenny (drums). They have pulled apart the conventions of a traditional band by mixing up the instruments they had traditionally played and involving musician and engineer Carl Didur who is part of Toronto’s experimental music scene and collaborated on ideas as well as the recording. In their own words from the press release:
“We’ve never been interested in the tradition of songwriting—though we’re interested in musical elements like repetition, space, and dynamics. We have wanted our music to make people dance but have also wanted to produce the feeling of that being taken away from a room”
Those ‘musical elements’ include speeding up and slowing down in songs, using grating noises, loops, juddering echo and reverb which produce an effect that is simultaneously unnerving and appealing. Once a conventional song structure is removed it makes you listen on the edge of your seat, not knowing how each track is going to hit your ears, and I found this hugely enjoyable. It’s like Indie-Dub, which put me in mind of a slightly less harsh, but no less gratifying, version of Gary Clail’s On-U Sound System and Mark Stewart & The Mafia, which took dub production values and applied sandpaper and nails in a way that comes off like stepping on a Lego brick when you’re high.
The more ‘commercial’ sound of tracks like ‘Ploce’ or ‘Mt. Tambora’ (whose eruption in 1816 caused the infamous ‘year without summer’) and ‘L’Express’ chime with the stripped back sound of Automatic’s album Signal or the alienated sound of Drahla’s Useless Coordinates. The named tracks are mixed in with seven short sound collages all titled ‘genre’ which are peppered throughout the album and, whereas some tingle with wubs and whoops, others crunch with edgy tension, like putting glass and rocks in a washing machine.
Is The Idea Of Us resonated with me and, although it might not help you relax while you’re reading the Sunday papers (and I would avoid putting it on during a fractious comedown), it’s a sensory world that’s worth spending time in and the lack of a ‘middle-8’ or ‘slight refrain’ makes this world all the more interesting.
Review by Paul F Cook