Faded Paper Figures – Relics
Released 25 August 2014 via Shorthand Records
No one likes an over-achiever and perhaps that’s why the latest release from Los Angeles-based synth/guitar band Faded Paper Figures (FPF) features a rather sulky astronaut on its cover. Looking like somebody just ate his last Mars bar, this stubbornly depressed spaceman is the figure-head for FPF’s most recent body of cosmic electronica, known contrarily as Relics.
Comprised of R. John Williams, Heather Alden and brother Kael Alden, these three bandmates know a little something about achievement themselves, being a Yale University professor, medical professional and dynamic music producer, respectively. This album is wrought with over-achievers, who somehow found time to make music too.
All the more impressive then that Williams and co. seem to take their music career seriously; this is no hobby for them and their ability to create edgy, tech-infused soundscapes is uncanny. Almost too much to comprehend for mere mortals like ourselves; the first bleeps and bloops of album opener Breathing set the precedent for a sophisticated Passion Pit-style affair that’s as dancey as it is poignant.
With its cryptic title, Relics is a juxtaposition of the senses, incorporating evocative ancient Egypt and space-age chic into its lyrics: “Egypt had it right, your long eyelashes glide/ like irises, Osirises are guarding me tonight.” This blending of opposing eras also makes for some interestingly anachronistic artwork with shades of Banksy in the album’s sleeve. Still, a confusing message from these gifted artists, whose intelligence is clearly present on this latest project.
Fortunately enlightenment comes in the form of a mouthful third track, Not The End Of The World (Even As We Know It). It’s a momentum-building clarion call and experiment in linguistics that demands you take a step back and look at the world, which may or may not be doomed. Williams demonstrates an impressive knack for rapid elocution of which spoken-word poet John Cooper-Clark would be envious, swiftly reeling off just some of the world’s issues: “Wicked television screen/Rockefeller energy/politician guarantee/stupid corporate synergy/MSNBC jerks/messing with the young Turks/Yogi hippiography/sell us immortality…”
There may be truth or nonsense in those lyrics, but it’s the chorus line: “Yeah! It’s hard/ but it’s not the end of the world” that will ultimately resonate with listeners as the life-affirming message geared towards a stoic understanding of how the world works.
On the surface of all the polemically-driven rhetoric is a modern, infectious sound that incorporates everything from synths, ukeleles and sitars to a humble typewriter.
Although at first Relics may sound like a sterile, futuristic pop production, behind the irresistible rhythms and prophetic-sounding vocals, it’s a thoroughly humanising album from a group of musically-gifted MENSA members. By the end of final track Forked Paths, you’ll just have to accept that some people are engineered towards greatness – and as with the sulky spaceman, we should all cheer up about it.
Artist: Faded Paper Figures