Review Summary: The best album on Eilean Records is also the most depressing.f (noir)
is a debut solo effort, but Bill Seaman has the intimidating résumé of a man devoted to art: of someone who has dedicated a good amount of life to instillation art, experimental musical collaborations and art academia. Someone who, from a critic's perspective, is frankly quite terrifying.
It gives an obvious explanation for f (noir)
's maturity. Bill's delicacy in exploring the alienation of city life cannot be overstated, nor can his harrowing treatment of the passing of time. In the self-shot video to 'Endings 2', monochrome cityscape stills gently fade into each other: contrasting colossal concrete structures with the accelerated yet minuscule dots of life scurrying inside. Drones spill over an endless textural static, piano notes ring out forever, metallic rings get no reply and all the while you can't help but notice how dehumanised his shots are. Zoom out far enough and the distinguishing features of a human being are headlights and illuminated windows.
To me, f(noir)
is about the fact that somewhere deep inside the inanimate structure there are people, and their part in the macro-system is brief. Bill hangs abstract textures and electro-acoustic collages between structured piano chords to create hypnotic, repeating landscapes which always seem at risk of collapsing into the surrounding drone yet never quite do so. In comparison, his use of sampled voice, strings or brass is distinguished, but lacks constancy. This romantic, meandering instrumentation presses back at the surrounding world only to find it doesn't move an inch.
The trumpet in 'The Undoing of Time' sees f (noir)
at its most heartbreaking. Like an estranged jazz improvisation to an empty room, it shuffles through the silence before joined by another and some equally weary strings in a move feeling not so much like consolation as solidarity. Bill's world is spellbinding, but it is incredibly bleak.
In a manner fitting its subject, f (noir)
goes about itself with a detached disinterest. The humanity in Bill's compositions is closed-eyes, head-back gorgeous, but weighed down with a kind of cynical resignation as if the individual parts are completely aware of their own insignificance. The album then becomes less of a call for help and more of a despairing reflection: a pause for thought tied to a depressing yet beautiful mutual understanding.