The drive from Edmonton to Calgary takes about three hours and is more or less a straight line. While this hardly sounds exciting, the surrounding landscape more than make up for the monotony. Flat and wide open on both sides of the highway, it seems as if the prairies go on forever. If you’re lucky, there will be a thunderstorm in the forecast. The flat land and endless sky let you see a storm coming as long as an hour before the first drop will reach you. It’s quite majestic to look in the distance and see bruised clouds rolling slowly toward you, with their inevitable payload waiting just a change enough in temperature to empty their saturated pockets.
Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, Faunts are for better or worse, the proverbial clouds in the distance. While Mother Nature’s visual forecast can be stunning, musically predictable bands are another story. Citing such acts as Mogwai and Sigur Ros as inspiration, Faunts are as epic sounding as you might expect. Blending electronics, guitars and ethereal vocals, High Expecatations/Low Results follows the brooding post-rock template step by step.
The album kicks off with the instrumental “High Expectations”. A dense wall of drones, simple guitar lines drenched in reverb and an overall somber atmosphere lays the foundation for the album’s most aggressive song, “Instantly Loved”. Heavily distorted bass guides the song through various ambient valleys, always to peak again backed by crushing drums and haunted voices. But it is at this point the Sigur Ros and Mogwai comparisons come to an end.
Like a hybrid of Stereolab and Yo La Tengo, “Memories of Places We’ve Never Been” takes the album in a much different direction. Buoyant, poppy, yet retaining the vocals’ darker edge, this song is nothing like what their press sheet promises. But this isn’t the problem. The problem is that even this track doesn’t offer anything beyond the standard indie pop you might expect. The musical precision isn’t countered by emotional levity resulting in a disc that is largely just an exercise in musical showmanship and generous production values. “Place I’ve Found” sounds like an excerpt from Low’s The Curtain Hits The Cast, with its methodical pacing, minimal percussion and soft vocal delivery. The album continues down a fairly obvious path, but the final proper song, “Gone with Day” offers some hope of something different with its 12-minute running time. Unfortunately, the band simply can’t deliver. The self-indulgent exercise in carefully orchestrated mood never builds into anything significant. There is no payoff momentous enough to warrant such an obnoxiously long song. The finale, “Low Results”, continues where the opening began, with more faceless and ultimately lifeless mood experiments.
There is no doubt that Faunts possess an enormous talent for crafting giant songs and ample arsenal of instrumentation with which to do it with. The band however, has yet to figure out how to give their songs the gravity worthy of an album that stretches to nearly an hour in length. Faunts’ enormous wall of sound, when stripped away, reveals the very barest of structures.