Aqua. Blue Foundation. Efterklang. Kashmir. Mew. Olsen Brothers. Raveonettes... Familiar with the works of at least half of these bands? Splendid. The music industry in Denmark is not totally meaningless for you. And while the ignorant mob frantically Googles the motherland of Hans Christian Andersen, people who do not know the writer of their childhood's best fairytales join the quest.
We continue diving into a musical obscurantism of southern Scandinavia. Of course, any non-Danish would consider the name of the musical group Alcoholic Faith Mission ... somewhat dumb. But as it turned out, a record label PonyRec, which hosts this remarkable Danish band, is a storehouse of groups with awkward names: Choir of Young Believers, Evil Death Machine, Heartbreak Basement ... you’d ask (and I know you will) what is it : indie-approach in the choice of names, carelessness or just crippled fantasy? Frankly, these questions don’t bother me at all. I doubt that, for example, guys from the cult American band Neutral Milk Hotel thought about any kind of musical success (not to mention the normal house), when they chose their idiotic name. So, if you do not like Denmark, the group name or applesauce - you can go back to the Middle Ages.
Thus once and for all let’s close the topic "why Alcoholic Faith Mission?» by simply reading the band’s explanation or the words of the band’s manager: "We live our lives in the liquor". Nevertheless, despite the abundance of alcohol (and perhaps due to it), the prolific Danes released their fourth album this year - Ask Me This. But I would like to keep my addiction to irrelevance and review their 2009 disc - 421 Wythe Avenue. This LP was the second for AFM, the first for me ... and people who haven’t found the Denmark on the map yet - I am praying for you.
First of all, it's worth noting that the band recorded their first album in the bedroom at night, a using the candles for the light. I know, the concept is concept, but what if something is wrong in the state of Denmark...For their second LP guys have matured enough to move to a Brooklyn factory (small flight for the musicians and a big leap for Denmark, ha?). The topical range of songs was artificially limited by four walls. The result - harsh Scandinavian indies, in the limiting conditions of austerity and alcohol, have created a truly picturesque masterpiece with 11 tracks. With the first timid strokes of Theme From Ice Cream Products, musical canvas of AFM starts gaining momentum. Thus, if the first song only awkwardly touches the ear, flowing close to the listener in a stream of ambient, it becomes absolutely impossible not to pay attention to the persistent second track. Gently fully justifies its name. Sweet voice of Kristine Permild, multiplied by a charming flower garden of stringed literally bare everything inside you from the first minutes of the. Lyrics? My God, well, isn’t this genius: "Just 'cause I'm a whore, you know, it doesn't mean I don't feel it when you *** me gently"?! And even if the song is just one line, the music and literary depth of it off-scales. The amazing feature of songs from 421 Wythe Avenue is that while staying within the boundaries of lo-fi, they pull out pieces of related genres (dream-pop, ambient, folk) and acquire an amazing atmosphere. A burning example of this - Nut In Your Eye. Reverse piercing the track is so intelligently written, that you don’t get tired of it. Even some kind of sonic porridge at the end sounds harmonically, painting from memory fragments of songs by My Bloody Valentine.
We All Have Our Shortcomings grows gradually, beginning with a guitar picking (leitmotiv of the album) and peeping of a distortion trombone, or whale song. "My eyes lock on yours ...", and everything comes to a standstill, as the protagonist of the 4th track. «In just another our my tongue could well be in you», and slightly tremulous voice of Thorben Jensen is immediately picked up by a gentle vocals of Kristine, giving the intimacy to the scene, soaking each step of sensuality and even a kind of erotic. And what’s the most important, there is a certain feeling of intimacy which maintains even during the climax of the song when the drums are fairly persistent, and the chorus climbs on the overlapping tracks of sound
Fade out of We All Have Our Shortcomings gives birth to the next track. Escapism, of course, is somewhat weaker than its predecessor. But, thanks to bright colors the song successfully retains the atmosphere of the album, and multi-channel delay creates a delicious background for Thorben’s vocals. Nothing‘s redundant. At the same time, the next track Guilty Scared Eyes generally sounds pretty tough - rich, crisp guitar riffs and breaks of the rhythm keep you tensed. It looks like not being able to stop, the wall of sound erupts into Painting Animals In Watercolor and at the end of the first minute all of sudden it retreats, giving the place for the voice of Kristine. Only by the end of the song, it is clear that behind the song with such an infantile name, a hidden footage of "... the beginning of an end" hides. Someone Else evokes mixed feelings: on the one hand, it is topically logical, on the other - absolutely pointless. In fact, instrumental track is like a bay leaf - appropriate for a certain dish. In this musical work of AFM the song looks obviously rudimentary.
Did You Eat is the most problematic record. And it's not because of the text about starving pigeons (of course, it is possible that my feeble mind prevents me from recognizing the philosophical and social issues of the song). The most disturbing moment is a unjustified stealing of guitar riff from the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. Are the Brooklyn pigeons worth it?
What could motivate an indie-band to record an 11 minute lo-fi ballad about the loss/disillusionment/depression/search/meeting with the elements of Hollywood clichés? And if this group is called Alcoholic Faith Mission? .. No, seriously, in my opinion, any musician, if he is not desperate drug-addict or autistic, knows that with every minute-excess of the song timing, the risk for it to become an annoying rubber increases. In the case of AFM, only after the second audition of Sweet Evelyn (22 minutes of my life), I realized the true motives behind its creation are simple: the guys couldn’t help playing. You can hear it in guitar improvisations and the lines of monotonous repetition along the song. And if the lyrics-Rondo of Gently was more than organic, that of the Sweet Evelyn is a little boring. In general, despite all the beauty, lyricism and sincerity of the track, it would rather be chosen for the background. Even a sudden phrase "these ***ing maps" snatches the brain from lethargy only for half a minute. The next exit to the reality is at the end of 10th minute when the song ends abruptly.
In my opinion, to finish the album with Time is one of the best ideas that occurred minds of Alcoholic Faith Mission. In addition to the elegant lyrics, song gives to the listener an amazing bouquet of brass instruments. This is not just a musical poem about time, but the last chord of the 50 minutes symphony. "Ink my skin to get you under mine". In the end it's AFM who penetrate deeply into your skin. Eclectic percussion, trombone and tuba chain you with musical flows, voluntarily, out of love, which is so devotedly sung by the music Danes.
421 Wythe Avenue is a masterpiece, a delightful work. This is a story that goes far beyond the four walls that Alcoholic Faith Mission tried to limit themselves with. Perhaps alcohol suppleness also helped to create the vocal and music emancipation, which is the primary drive. And if so, I sincerely wish good health to the talented Danish musicians. And those who have not found this beautiful country on the map of Europe (hint), I hope you at least find the courage to end your miserable life.
In conclusion, the address of the Brooklyn plant may not become the discovery of your life, might not change your musical tastes, or help to win the lottery. But, I am more than confident it will take a deserving place in your musical address book.