Tu Fawning - A Monument
By: Rob Gannon
Fed up of predictable synth-pop, linear indie jangling and insubstantial beats? Fortunately there is a cure, yet Tu Fawning aren’t about to cram it down your throat. This creative Portland outfit undoubtedly make you work for their magical elixir, but after a couple of doses you’ll be hooked.
Their curious debut was no different. It was striking, individual and it was also divisive – the sticking point often being singer Corina Repp‘s peculiar chirrup-cum-mew. Some of her vocal extremes have since been shorn, some of the band’s weirder melodies too, but nowhere near all of them. A Monument is thus an appealing pill made only marginally easier to swallow due to generally impressive song-writing.
With two fingers up to genre, the impressive “Wager” rides on echoing tom toms, creeping along like a prairie sunrise until it explodes into shards of calypso guitar and mutilated music box. The subdued “To Break Into” owes its existence to some whip-crack percussion and bubbling choral flutter. Lead single “Anchor” is pure soft-patterned dream-pop given an edge of oddness via rolling bass drum peels.
Depending on the listener, there’s either a delicious sense of whimsy and capriciousness on display here too, or a frustrating inability to focus and deliver. For example, “Skin And Bone” opens with a very striking piece of atmospherica built on cut-and-paste vocal loops and drum ripples before it then ushers in a destructive wave of post-rock bluster. Often at the point of collapse under a mishmash of style and instrumentation, “Build A Great Cliff” too is a precarious blend of marching drums, electronic fuzz, big brass and chanting. Repp is here at her squeakiest on the latter and amidst breakneck tempo changes the track also repeatedly cuts away to a seemingly parallel track.
In comparison, the outsider chamber-pop of “Blood Stains” is a relatively straightforward offering that courses with piano, keyboard swell and brass on top of choral bedding, its cohesive spaces as important as its fuller passages. The 7+ minute closer “Bones” is in turn a rhythmic post-punk of sorts, which for three minutes thinks it’s an instrumental before Repp renders it a metronomically ticking and hand-drummed ballad for its remainder.
There’s a decidedly cinematic scope to A Monument too and it comes to a head during the effective “A Pose For No One”. Repp here turns in a restrained quiver over vaguely oriental plucking undercut with sinister bass drone and massively pronounced drums as elsewhere primal groans of post-rock marry with classical strings.
Tu Fawning are a descriptive reviewer’s delight, lurching away from easy pigeonholing at every opportunity. The fact then that A Monument isn’t a dizzying mess must be commended. What’s more, when the stars align and the ideal occasion for this album finally presents itself it’ll not only make sense it could well be an essential soundtrack.
Advised downloads: “Wager” and “A Pose For No One”.
A Monument is out now on City Slang.