Ask Me This
Alcoholic Faith Mission
SCQ Rating: 78%
It has become something of an institution for Alcoholic Faith Mission to issue a release in the springtime. 421 Wythe Avenue, Let This Be the Last Night We Care as well as 2011’s And the Running With Insanity EP each blossomed onto the scene at winter’s end and resonate as though they are unburdening the cares collected the previous year.
Ask Me This, however, wastes no time in presenting a change of season we weren’t expecting. Opening track “Down From Here” sets the tone via an impassioned group a cappella, building in bombast but remaining rigidly sober, before “Alaska” finds an almost industrial crunch replacing the typical warmth of this Copenhagen-based sextet. Ask Me This could’ve been considered a departure on the basis of sonic tinkering alone but that merely accentuates the tonal shift: that on these ten songs, Alcoholic Faith Mission are holding their burden tightly, consumed with and fueled by the conflicted emotions they once sought to emancipate. The sunny disposition of “Running With Insanity”, which owned the headliner spot on last year’s EP, only gradually feels at home here on account of its painstaking layered arrangement, as breathless harmonica, handclaps and vocal harmonies form the song’s foundation (whereas guitar and piano get relegated to the status of happy accessories).
Which brings me to my next point: Alcoholic Faith Mission’s break-neck speed of releasing material can only be outshone by their evolving song-craft, which undergoes another upgrade on Ask Me This. Whether it’s the spliced symphonics on “Reconstruct My Love” or the stuttering drum machine on “Into Pieces” that sound so alien to ‘aFm’ loyalists, repeated listens find those experimental qualities being absorbed into the same emotional vein that rendered past records so magnificent. In particular, “I’m Not Evil” likely stands as one of the band’s best tracks yet; its cascading piano line latched to a subtly rendered bass and percussion shuffle.
Small efforts truly make Ask Me This a more nuanced animal than its predecessors, even if the end results fail to shine quite as brightly. Saying this new record gets personal wouldn’t really explain much, given some of the band’s previous talking-points, but one could definitely call it insular. And that pervasive overcast succeeds in shedding strange new light on a disciplined band transforming before our very ears.