Music Reviews: Slowly Rolling Camera, Fanfarlo, Hollow & Akimbo, Lune, Nina Persson, Roman Remains
Frontiers Staff

Slowly Rolling Camera
Slowly Rolling Camera
(Edition Records)
* * * * *

It’s a rarity when music that’s an amalgamation of so many styles sounds fresh and unlike anything you’ve heard before. In such uncommon cases, we critics have a tendency to overrate said artist, in which case I’d caution you to take the rest of this review with a few grains of salt. That said, this U.K. foursome is a truly special case. Composer-pianist Dave Stapleton, producer Deri Roberts, drummer Elliot Bennett and vocalist/lyricist Dionne Bennett have come up with a progressive soul jazz trip-hop electronica that is, from what I can tell, its own genre. Now, this might all seem pretentious as hell if it weren’t for the organic structure of the band’s songs; they’re not just wonky improvisational maestros showing off for our entertainment. Each tune, built on myriad levels, grows naturally from each source until the disparate influences coalesce into a seamless whole. Using only one example, “Protagonist” begins as ambient trip-hop (think Massive Attack) until a stand-up bass takes it to jazz church, where Dionne Bennett skitters atop an encroaching drums ’n’ bass percussive freakout with free jazz/electric-Miles horns and—well, consider my mind blown. I’d bet on yours being blown as well. —Dan Loughry

Let’s Go Extinct
(New World Records)
* * *

Fanfarlo is an anomaly. Only five years ago the group released its debut album, Reservoir, which sounded exactly like Beirut.  Last year, after four years of silence, Fanfarlo released the brilliant Rooms Filled With Light LP and shook off all those Beirut comparisons—by essentially sounding like an entirely new band. A year later the band already has another full-length for us. Let’s Go Extinct, despite its title, is an overwhelmingly joyous affair.  Album opener “Life in the Sky” bops along amiably with a huge gut-punch of a chorus that doesn’t leave you. That’s not to say Fanfarlo has suddenly stopped being derivative, though. “Myth of Myself” is the sort of blue-eyed soul that Stars perfected a while back—hardly original, but pleasant nonetheless. Elsewhere, “A Distance” gives the album a danceable synth tentpole, and “Landlocked” is perhaps the most commercial track the band has recorded thus far. “Painting with Life” is moody and atmospheric—if not a little forgettable—and “The Grey and Gold” puts a bit of alt-country into the mix. All in all, the band has become a chameleon—while certainly a talented bunch, Let’s Go Extinct remains slight and anonymous. Fanfarlo is getting there, though. —Dominik Rothbard

Hollow & Akimbo
Hollow & Akimbo
(Quite Scientific)
* * * *

With deliciously fuzzy guitars and earnest, yearning vocals, newcomer band Hollow & Akimbo constructs a peculiar yet enthralling brand of cerebral electronic pop. The Michigan duo’s debut—literally recorded at home in basements, bedrooms, attics and closets—is mindfully crafted in a way that requires multiples listens to hear these intricate textures, so cleverly layered over the album’s 10 tracks. Lead single “Singularity” starts off with what sounds like a gritty, distorted organ before the chiming guitars and crisp drums kick in. Singer Jon Visger’s flawless vocals soar over grandiose electronic samples and pianos throughout, making for a perfect first single. I’m really digging “Lucky Stars” and “Fever Dreams,” both of which vibe like Radiohead loaded with atmosphere, haunting keys, dissonant vocals and layers of sound that succeed by staying uncluttered. “The One Who Has to Carry You Home” features some damn adorable vocals and a happy-go-lucky melody that screams ‘summer hit.’ Ditto for the radio-ready “Still Life.” I’m also hearing some shades of Phoenix as an influence here, so if intriguing and fresh-sounding indie rock with a special blend of looped rhythms flips your switch, this is a great record to investigate. —Paul V.

Music & Sports
* * *

The age of the breathy, electropop female artist is in full effect these days, and Scandinavia (more specifically Sweden) remains its main breeding ground. Enter Lune (Linnéa Martinsson), who’s just dropped her scintillating debut disc. She was first discovered by Sebastian Ingrosso (Swedish House Mafia) and was featured on singles by Adrian Lux and Tiesto. (In fact, Lux is in the producer’s chair here.) Lune covers Swedish House Mafia’s “Leave the World Behind” as a haunting, dim-all-the-lights interpolation. Delivering her sound from the Balearic Isles to the Norwegian fjords is a feat Lune achieves perfectly, especially on sensual, languid, love-inspired tracks like “Falling” and “That Day.” Another standout is “Girls with Bangs,” with its minimal electro beats, child-like vocals and lyrics that seem to be pointed at hipster girls across the globe. Though this is more of a mellower bedroom listen, the aforementioned track and the scuffling “Tonight” do provide some hefty but still understated beats for the dance floor. With influences from many different arenas, she seems to draw equal inspiration from nature as well as nightclubs. Lune could sit well in your collection next to Bjork or Oh Land. —P.V.

Nina Persson
Animal Heart
* * *

This is unfortunate, a case of wasted potential. Nina Persson of the Cardigans is out on her own once again, no longer using the A Camp moniker. This album keeps threatening to become amazing, yet somehow it just never soars. Persson’s lyrics are as unique and sharp as ever, but the melodies this time out are stagnant. The album comes across as a sort of hybrid between late-era Cardigans and A Camp’s last outing, Colonia. Subtle electronics bubble under the surface of most songs, occasionally giving them the energy they need—see the title track, “Food for the Beast” and “Dreaming of Houses”—but elsewhere songs like “Clip Your Wings” and the repetitive “Forgot to Tell You” meander until they peter out. Persson is at her best when her serenity is matched with the energy of a live band. Here she is backed by session musicians, and it shows. The production is too slick, too safe for an artist like Nina Persson. Recently the Cardigans have been touring, and rumors of a new album are starting to appear online. Let’s hope the rumors prove true and Animal Heart is a small footnote in an otherwise enthralling career. —D.R.

Roman Remains
(H.O.T. Records Ltd.)
* * * *

In order to remain commercially viable now, it seems every rock band must have an electro side-project. Hence Roman Remains—The Duke Spirit’s Leila Moss and Toby Butler rummaging through the detritus of electronica/industrial, picking over its already scanty bones. What sets Zeal above most same-sounding electro records is the powerful music. Butler isn’t afraid of discord or dynamics, and Moss is one hell of a singer, whether she’s raging up against stratospheric guitars or playing siren to oceanic tides of synthesizers and processors. (Check out her alluring soprano on the layered clarion call of “Nest in Your Room.”) Zeal showcases both musicians’ strengths over its 11 compelling tracks. He’s like a mad scientist in his lab—synths sputter and soar, coupled with jagged blasts of guitar (“Thirsty as a Truck”) and computer glitches as percussion (“Vulture Beat”). Moss gets to trot out a new bag of tricks—the robotic necessity of the music uncovers, paradoxically, more soul from her confident vocals, from the skittering, Garbage-like opener “This Stone is Starting to Bleed” to the Velvets drone of closer “It Ends in Other Ways.” Zeal is so strong it makes a convincing argument that Roman Remains should be Moss/Butler’s day job. —D.L.

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