Album Review: Fenech-Soler – Rituals

By on Monday, 30th September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Fenech-Soler Rituals coverSince the release of Fenech-Soler‘s self-titled album in 2010, the Kings Cliffe band have had a tumultuous time of it. Singer Ben Duffy was diagnosed with cancer in early 2011, which understandably put touring and songwriting to a stop. Compared to most other fans, on a personal level I probably was much, much more worried about Ben’s condition than what would happen to the band, and then when it was revealed that they’d made the decision to go back out on the road later that year, as the motherly music editor type, I thought maybe it was too much, too soon. However, after I did this interview with Ben that autumn, I had faith that they’d made the right decision and that all would be fine. Most of the tour dates on that rescheduled UK tour ended up selling out, which to me was a testament to just how massively loved Fenech-Soler are in Britain.

Three years later, the band – comprised of brothers Ben and Ross Duffy, Daniel Soler (whose full Maltese surname was borrowed for the group’s moniker) and Andrew Lindsay – have a new release with Warner Brothers out today called ‘Rituals’. While the physical gold and glitter from ‘Fenech-Soler’ might be gone, the majority of what is being offered up in ‘Rituals’ is as dance gold as their debut. When they first appeared on the music radar in 2010, Fenech-Soler were being compared to two bands we’d already written quite a lot about here on TGTF, now destined for the Where Are They Now? pile: Friendly Fires appear to have all but disappeared and Delphic have chosen to go not to continue down the merry path of electro dance and went r&b instead. In that sense, Fenech-Soler have stayed true to their roots and as a electronic dance fan, I am very grateful.

The opening measures of the album-starting ‘Youth’, with its handclaps and layered synth effects makes you feel like you’re lying on a beautiful beach somewhere, all of your senses heightened by your body feeling the rays directly. So the tropical feel of many of the songs on ‘Rituals’ suits its end of September release date well. Listening to the rest of ‘Youth’ with its extended synth lines, especially nearer to the end where there’s a huge celebratory build-up, you get the sense that you could listen to this album at nearly any time of the year and channel those good vibes. Another sunny standout is ‘Maiyu’ (stream it below), which I’m imagining would be so fun to watch live, with sequencers, synths and drum pads being hit at rapid succession, as Duffy’s wistful voice stretches across the track and seems to be in perfect harmony with the hard chords of the chorus. When the band pulled out of both SXSW and the Great Escape this year, I was devastated. So if you have the opportunity to go see them before the end of 2013, by all means, go.

‘All I Know’, which I previously waxed philosophical on both its lyrics and sound here, is my favourite among the singles. But just on the basis of populist accessibility, the chiller ‘Last Forever’ and the huge-sounding ‘Magnetic’ are guaranteed toe-tappers. ‘In Our Blood’, which follows ‘All I Know’ in the song sequence on ‘Rituals’, could rival ‘Magnetic’ in scale of sound, and its unique syncopated synth lines in the chorus. Superficially, the lyrics are about having a good time out dancing, but the subtext is much more interesting: Duffy is denying his feelings and leaving his broken heart out on the dance floor in favour of losing himself and all that feeling to the music: “it’s in our blood tonight, even if I have to dance alone…either way, this is who we are / so let’s get lost in the dark”.

The album isn’t without its faults. ‘Somebody’ sounds too Tom Vek, until it thankfully Fenech-Soler sobers up in the last minute and a half. The next track ‘Fading’ has a similar fate, except it has an r&b feel that I’m guessing is supposed to make it more palatable to the top 40 listening public; in other words, it sounds too generic and could be by any number of Radio 1-played artists. I’m not a fan of ‘Two Cities’ for similar reasons.

Okay, we now need to have a talk about these musical interludes, transitions, transitoires, whatever you want to call them. They need to stop. Of all the albums I’ve heard in the last 12 months, there has only been one band’s album – Cave Painting‘s ‘Votive Life’ – that has used this instrumental device in an album successfully. It works for them because in dream pop, the device feels natural. Now these things are popping up most everywhere, from White Lies‘Big TV’ to the 1975‘s ‘The 1975’. Do we need to stage an intervention? In the case of the two that are slotted in the lineup of this album of Fenech-Soler’s, they come across as an extended intro that got chopped off unceremoniously from the front of ‘Last Forever’ (‘Ritual I’) and what might have worked as a wispy outro to ‘Two Cities’ (‘Ritual II’). In both cases, I would have preferred fully fleshed-out songs instead of wondering what might have been from the great potential in these short sound bites.

Still, mostly what is on offer on ‘Rituals’ is epic and proves unlike most dance bands, Fenech-Soler are worth much more than their singles. You’re going to want to dance to this. And often.

8/10

Fenech-Soler’s second album ‘Rituals’ is out today on Warner. The band will be touring the UK and Ireland in November; all the details are here, though some dates have already sold out.

Tags: , , , , ,

4 Responses

12:02 pm
30th September 2013

New post: Album Review: Fenech-Soler @FENECHSOLER’s second album ‘Rituals’, out today on Warner: http://t.co/fK7iAn152S

5:04 pm
30th September 2013

“@tgtf: New post: Album Review: Fenech-Soler @FENECHSOLER’s second album ‘Rituals’, out today: http://t.co/eP9AD6kW1w”

5:16 pm
30th September 2013

RT @FENECHSOLER: “@tgtf: New post: Album Review: Fenech-Soler @FENECHSOLER’s second album ‘Rituals’, out today: http://t.co/eP9AD6kW1w”

[…] of the best, if not the best chorus on all of ‘Rituals’. (For more on the album, read my review here on TGTF.) He insists, “I don’t want to go back home”, because going home, he’d have […]

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

E-mail us  |  RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us