Review Summary: Faunts' spacy music can easily appeal to both fans of latter-day Radiohead and more open-minded fans of Pink Floyd.
Although they might not be a household name, Canada’s Faunts has probably been heard by over a million people worldwide over the last month as the second part of the title track to their 2006 EP, M4, is featured in the closing credits of the popular Xbox 360 RPG, Mass Effect. As this is the only song from the soundtrack to not be an original work by composer Jack Wall, as well as being the longest song on the soundtrack by five minutes, it is sure to stand out from the rest, and hopefully get this band some well-deserved exposure. Faunts released their debut album, High Expectations/Low Results, in late 2005, but remained unknown despite some critical praise. The album had both moments of loud, crunching guitars and tranquil keyboard-heavy passages with very little emphasis on the vocals, often drawing comparisons to big indie names like Radiohead and Sigur Ros.
This EP, M4, arrived a year later, and the band has not toyed with their sound greatly. The vocals are still used scarcely with much more emphasis on the guitar and keyboard play, but the music on the EP has a much more consistent sound than their full-length work did. It should also be noted that this is an EP only in the number of tracks, as it runs just short of forty minutes in length. The first track, “M4, Pt. II,” is easily the most accessible and best song on the record; a record that definitely takes a few listens to appreciate. The song seems to constantly be building and going somewhere with the guitars and keyboards playing swiftly and intertwined over occasional drum blasts and the soft, but genial vocals. There is no wonder why this song was chosen for the video game either; it has a celestial feel to it, like most of their songs do, as well as lyrics like “I need to you to recover; because I can’t make it on my own” that fit perfectly with a game where a human and his/her crew are trying to save the universe.
When saying the first song is easily the best, that might make it sound like the rest is very skip-able, but the remaining thirty-one minutes should not be overlooked. Sleepwalker is the second song, is slower than its forerunner, with a pulsating beat and a simple chorus of “am I still asleep?” that aptly give the song a psychedelic disposition. The middle third of the song is an ever-intensifying experimental instrumentation that even increases the ethereality. The third track, “M4, Pt. I,” is the predecessor to the first track on the album, but it is understandable why they decided not to open with this, as it is much calmer than “Pt. II” and a much less attention-grabbing piece. It follows the same guitar lines as “Pt. II” does, but the guitars are drowned out by the keys and programming for a great deal of the song. Around the five-minute mark the drums enter and things start to slowly build for two minutes, but instead of erupting the song just calms back down and fades out, which is both irritating and understandable, as “Pt. II” is where the tension was intended to be released.
Track four, “Meno Mony Falls,” is the shortest song on the EP at just under six minutes in length. It is an instrumental song like the track before it, and it also builds like the track before it, and it also fades out when “the good part” is supposed to come just like the track before it, but unlike “M4, Pt. I” this song is relatively intense, and given its reasonable length it is easy to get over the fact that they chose not to let loose. The closer is “Of Nature,” the first half of which is very peaceful, probably the longest serene moment of the entire recording. Eventually splashes of guitar enter the frame and the peace is temporarily broken, but the music still manages to retain a blissful feel to it. In time everything settles back down as the song and record slowly quietly draw to a close.
To reiterate, this is a difficult record, and listening to it once will in all likelihood not provide satisfaction to the listener. Patient ears, however, will hopefully find some enjoyment from M4 as Faunts manages to make some top-notch electronic indie dream pop/rock, or whatever you wish to call it. My fingers are crossed that the Mass Effect connection will heighten this band’s popularity, because this is a band that deserves more attention.