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Freescha

Slower Than Church Music

(ShingleStreet; US: Available as import; UK: 6 May 2002)

The San Francisco duo of Nick Huntington and Michael McGroarty, better known as Freescha, shouldn’t throw a scare into the electronica scene. The sons of composers, both grew up listening to Duran Duran and Hall and Oates. Added to the mix were John Denver and the Gap Band. Needless to say, eclecticism wasn’t a weakness for the pair. After releasing a series of singles that garnered attention on both sides of the ocean, Freescha decided to up the ante by being inspired from claymation films. The band’s debut “mini-album” isn’t exactly church music, but there is a certain macabre and somber tone to each of the ten tracks.


Starting off with “Mollusk”, Freescha opts for a style that is equal parts organic and electronic. Initially sounding like a Casio keyboard being played underwater, the song is a great jumping off point for what’s to come. While not particularly tension-filled, there is an Eno-esque industrial quality to it at all times. “Gole” is a deliberately paced dirge that has its drums coming more and more to the fore. Sounding like a generic “Cure on tranquilizers” introduction, the song evolves into an uplifting keyboard-heavy track. Comparisons to Massive Attack might be in the offering, but there is more of a natural feeling to these songs. Handclaps glide over blips and beeps effortlessly. Only during the track’s latter stages does a certain malaise rear its ugly head.


“Boogy Foot” begins with a simple drumbeat in the style of the Turtles “Happy Together”. There are some distorted Thom Yorke-like lyrics in snippets, but the majority of the number is carried by a happy-go-lucky drumbeat blended with a gloom-and-doom keyboard arrangement. Suspended sonically, the tune’s false ending resembles a tape being eaten by a demonic cassette player before swerving to an early Depeche Mode synth arrangement. Its diversity almost makes it two songs in one, but there is a common thread of distance and dissociation running through it. “Cosmo Sees Rain” resembles Iceland’s Sigur Ros filtered by Brian Eno. There is a definite ethereal feeling to it, despite the fact it’s a rather fragmented presentation.


A certain warmth is the noticeable quality most of the tracks possess. “The Loom” comes across as Nine Inch Nails minus the brashness or the utter despair. Or think of Moby’s “Porcelain” had he taken a more arduous path towards it. Huntingon and McGroarty shed just enough light in the album’s theme of darkness that it engages the listener. It’s also one of the radio-friendly tracks here, having some semblance of a beat or pattern that isn’t evolving throughout. One expects a choir to begin singing near its conclusion, it has that feeling to it. Unfortunately “Wood Working” is a good title for a wooden, rigid and aimless track. If the Looney Tunes faced Armageddon, it might sound like the tune’s opening. It becomes very tranquil, if only for a few fleeting moments.


Another quality that is seen is how the album’s second side (yes, I still believe LPs will return!) is the relative inconsistency so evident in the first half. “Mothy Hooves” is nothing more than rehashed filler material that could be done in any electronica group’s sleep. And while just over one minute in length, it’s a minute too long. “Abominable Love” comes close to being the album’s centerpiece. A lovable melody winds it way across the song while the church organ quality works well. A certain key becomes tends to be more pronounced over time, eventually taking over the percussion element. Containing a general full “wall of sound” to it, it seems the perfect length at four minutes.


“Church Music”, the album’s finale is very deliberate and results in a grand payoff for the listener. The rhythm section and trip-hop atmosphere is alone until more than two minutes in. From there the keyboards and synth pop vibe propels the track along quite nicely. If there’s one flaw, it’s that the drumbeats sound a bit too sharp or heavy handed, not complementing the keyboards as well as could be anticipated. Ending with a slight whisper, just like it began, the record is at times slower than church music. Freescha should be look upon with jealousy, for the record has the same beauty church music can sometimes convey.

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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