Fontanelle: F

="Description" CONTENT="Fontanelle, F (Kranky), review by Wilson Neate



US Release Date: 2001-06-12

The electronic jazz/post-rock instrumental experimentation of Fontanelle's 2000 self-titled debut suggested a slightly funky hybrid of Can and early-'70s Miles Davis. F offers much of the same.

Strictly speaking, F isn't an entirely new album for the Portland-based group; it comprises material drawn from recording sessions that date back to 1998, when Fontanelle was formed by ex-Jessamine members Rex Ritter (guitar) and Andy Brown (keyboards).

This release is largely the work of a six-man lineup. In addition to Ritter and Brown, F features keyboard players Paul Dickow and Brian Foote, guitarist Charlie Smyth, and drummer Mat Morgan, who bring their diverse talents to bear on the proceedings. Retro synth sounds, melodic keyboards, intricate guitar patterns, and shifting syncopated rhythms contribute different textures that often come together in a jazzy groove.

Fontanelle's electronic dimension is nicely accented by the droning and throbbing synth of "Fulcrum", a track that conjures up images of some pulsing sci-fi pod or chrysalis, albeit in an unmenacing, mildly camp way. (If Air were to record a soundtrack to a horror film, it might well sound something like this.) "Fulcrum" also underscores one of the album's more interesting leitmotifs, a kind of minimalist funk inflection that never fully declares itself in extended melodic sections. This works best on the seven-minute "Charm & Strange", whose pockets of synthesized wah-wah noise would not sound out of place as an ingredient in the incidental music to some '70s cop show, possibly during a car chase scene.

The band excels on "Floor Tile", a track that centers on repeating, interwoven lines of minimal piano and guitar melody that gradually build and subtly change, with mesmerizing results. It evokes both John Martyn's "Glistening Glyndebourne" and sections of the Soft Machine's "Out-Bloody-Rageous".

Much has been made of the band's improvisational approach to composition. Although such a creative process has generated some truly fine work on F, it might also account for the album's less compelling passages, where things cohere only momentarily and have an unfinished, jam-like feel. "Corrective Lenses", for instance, works itself into a hypnotic swagger, yet ultimately it fragments, coming to an end that leaves the song sounding incomplete, having never realized its potential.

In places F tends to get a little bogged down in its own noodliness and, consequently, some tracks sound static and circular. Despite its excellent sub-funk bubblings, "Return Envelope" is much as its title suggests -- it ends up where it started without making any significant progression. The one truly weak spot, or fontanelle, comes on "Walking with Mercer", a number that simply plods along murkily.

However, for the most part Fontanelle keeps the listener's attention. F is undoubtedly cerebral but, in general, it's not too brainy or too clever for its own good and makes for engaging, enjoyable listening.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.