Review Summary: Sarah Fimm has never been one to repeat what she has already done, and she isn't about to start now.
It's amazing how far Sarah Fimm has come since releasing Cocooned
in 2001. There was a time when her music was dominated by electronics and chill beats with only Sarah Fimm's vocals left to provide any human element. That dynamic slowly changed, though, as Sarah set out to deliberately make her music more emotional and dynamic. Although each album slowly made progress towards that goal, the first huge leap came with her EP White Birds
. Without rehashing every nuance of that excellent EP, suffice it to say that it saw Sarah successfully end her reliance on electronics and, more importantly, it proved that she had it in her to deliver truly touching songs ("Tamara Song" in particular). The natural final step seemed to come with the release of Red Yellow Sun
. This was the album that did away with the remaining electronic elements and replaced them with electric and acoustic guitars, organic percussion, classical instrumentation and a larger folk influence. It appeared that Sarah Fimm had finally realized her vision, but Near Infinite Possibility
proves that she hasn't settled down just yet.
Red Yellow Sun
as a whole seemed to be built around quiet folk-influenced melodies that left the songs feeling very open. This warm meditative ambience was the key element that locked all of the songs together, but it also gave the album a homogenous feel. Near Infinite Possibility
, in contrast, seems to pull from many diverse influences – from 70s psychedelic rock to 90s alt. rock and even a bit of prog. This collection of influences, for whatever reason, has lead to an album that seems to radiate with an underlying sense of sadness. It's not just in the lyrics (although it's there too) but also in the tones and melodies. There are songs such as the first single, "Yellow", that are blatantly dark but even on tracks such as the proggy and catchy "Closer" the music creates a slightly sinister ambience through the use of dissonance, melancholic guitar melodies and the occasional strange sound effect. This underlying sense of depression isn't just an isolated incident either; it's a feeling that seems to lie just under the surface of just about every song (and is also placed right at the forefront from time to time). This sense of unease and unhappiness peaks on "Disappear" – a track that reminds me a lot of the kind of thing Alice in Chains
were so good at on Dirt
These songs not only display another side of Sarah Fimm's music, but also just how diverse this album is. Opening track, "Soul Let Swim", sets the tone for the album by gently easing listeners into her latest direction. Overall it's an upbeat alt. rock song that makes excellent use of layered and harmonized vocals, but it also makes subtle use of elements that will come into play later such as the gloomier feel and occasional use of dissonance. One track was apparently all the time Sarah was willing to give listeners in order to make the adjustment because "Invisible Satellites" pushes listeners into the deep end with its moody atmosphere, sparse electronics and potent vocals. From "Invisible Satellites" forward Sarah Fimm ushers in track after track of gloomy, yet catchy, music that is inherently alt. rock, but with a much more diverse scope thanks to her use of folk, prog and psychedelic rock. If this formula sounds a little bit unfamiliar compared to Sarah Fimm's past works, it should. In fact – as it was with the transition from Nexus
to Red Yellow Sun
– there is very little on this album that one could call similar to the previous release. If Red Yellow Sun
was the soundtrack of a contemplative woman taking the good with the bad but ultimately enjoying the moment, then Near Infinite Possibility
is that same woman coming to grips with some buried emotions that finally need to be expressed and the music fits that vibe perfectly.
When Red Yellow Sun
was released people naturally assumed that it was the end result of Sarah's vision for her music, myself included, but we were wrong. Near Infinite Possibility
proves that there probably isn't a true end result in Sarah Fimm's mind, just a natural and continuous progression that will continue to twist and turn in unexpected ways. This means that each album should continue to be a surprise and Near Infinite Possibility
certainly is. It is an album that takes a turn towards darker pastures and less relaxed surroundings. The warm acoustic folk of the previous album has been virtually eliminated in order to make room for a hybrid of alt. and psychedelic rock that flirts with moments of prog, dissonance and sparse electronics. This has made Near Infinite Possibility
a much less comfortable listen, but when the results are as good as this and the songs and lyrics can engage so easily, a little discomfort is well worth the price of admission.