Friday, February 5, 2010

The Dead Sea Scrolls - Fort Fairfield

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Fort Fairfield
Acustronica Records.

SCQ Rating: 71%

If you’re a seeker of untapped electronica, there’s no turning your back on net-labels; as soon as you do, a new web-based imprint armed with talent will come knocking on your door with the expressed purpose of proving that phrase “you get what you pay for” wrong. The latest free release to warrant mention comes courtesy of Gothenburg/Malmoe duo Fort Fairfield (J and T Luck), whose record The Dead Sea Scrolls descends upon the ears like a patchwork quilt of iced cool beats, unexpected samples, borderline post-rock and accomplished soundscapes.

Eclectic as it may look on paper, The Dead Sea Scrolls unfurls no differently than most home-listening electronica records, unsealing pastoral, open-ended melodies on ‘Safe’ and echoed tin beats on ‘Sounds of Birds’. Their wintry sensibilities are further streamlined on the snow-crunched beats of ‘The Forest Awakens at Night to Reveal Another World’ (which borrows a few Moby trademarks) and the title track, which matches analog-synths to break-beats in a way Boards of Canada would be proud of. When the Luck duo does bring out a guitar, it doesn’t result in ‘Ode to Mogwai’ as many might expect, but instead ‘Freakout Pt 1’ (which, um, sounds exactly like Mogwai circa EP+6). Band-comparisons aside, Fort Fairfield excels best with patient electronic meditations like ‘Hisingen’, hinged on white noise and ethereal sound-manipulation, or the web of delicate keys and sympathetic beats which make up ‘Grace’.

So far I’ve pinpointed the areas of Fort Fairfield’s sound which are pretty, sure, but also conservative. What separates The Dead Sea Scrolls from the countless electronic albums mining turn-of-the-century chill-out is its use of samples - many of which I doubt are cleared – that imbed this collection with a nervy edge. The deep-end drones of ‘Live For the Railroads’ give uncomfortable depth to a tearful sample ripped from 10 Things I Hate About You, while hearing Anton Newcombe pop up with his Dig-stolen “you fucking broke my sitar, motherfucker” one-liner makes a point to interrupt the Swedish duo’s relaxed flow. These questionable sampling choices are ultimately backed by some worthy teasers, like timing a Motown sample to M83-esque drama (‘Too Long a Sacrifice Can Make a Stone of the Heart’) or looping a schmaltzy retro ballad into its own groove (‘Patchwork’). The ideas are certainly flowing in the Fort Fairfield camp, although neither of these head-turning moments are expanded beyond their respective track’s segue ambition.

Regardless of whether these samples all click, their inclusions are key in extricating Fort Fairfield from an overcrowded electronic-bubble of laptop artists. The Dead Sea Scrolls is currently available for FREE from Acustronica Records.

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