A stark industrial reality mixed with a calm and calculated voice.
Usually, when musicians take a cold, industrial route into their music, it follows a vocal style that matches. Fiona Brown is an exception to that rule. Bringing a vocal that is more akin to soul or warm synth music, this is the coldest of music with the warmest of regards.
‘Mundane’ is anything but, although it takes a while to adjust to its brooding industrial beats. Across the albums 12 tracks, the grooves are harsh, aggressive and cold. Like slaps to the face or knocks to the knees – they bite and gnarl. Add to that, icy synths that hint at melodies without always explicitly giving them and you have an unusual album. It isn’t atonal – it just hints at beauty or horror – often at the same time. What holds it all together is the voice of Fiona Brown.
Fiona’s voice takes on many shapes and guises. ‘Fight the Fight’ is a spoken word echo chamber to take on the world. ‘Shiver’ mixes softly whispered lullabies against creepy high register chorus pieces. Elsewhere on ‘My Void’ Fiona layers herself into a chorus of her own. Often erring on the low and calm vocal delivery, she lulls you into a false sense of security. When you listen to the actual lyrics, little about them is comforting and the album is lyrically meaty. Brown says the album was inspired by having unlimited beliefs but each track takes that idea into an extreme warped version.
Stylistically, there isn’t anyone doing quite this mashup of music around recently. I think fans of Gazelle Twin, Mandalay, The Knife and maybe Lamb would dig in heartily. Towards the end of the album, Fiona Brown takes more of a melodic approach to her tracks. Standouts are the piano-based creepathon that is ‘Eternal Youth’ and the stunning ‘Head Down’. The latter track has a slow guitar rising drone that mixes alongside some soulful vocals making it a giddy mashup of genres you wouldn’t normally expect. Experimental noise forms the tracks ‘Know (No) More’ and ‘Beautiful Misery’ – the latter a cinematic dream turned nightmare of synths. Buzzsaw guitars and wooden spanks form the charging ‘Restricted’ like a PJ Harvey 90’s b-side. These tracks add a welcome diversification from the claustrophobic opening half of the album.
‘Mundane’ won’t be an album I think you’ll click with immediately on the first listen – it requires a mood. Generally, a moody broody one! Fiona Brown has created a dense, taut, machine gear grinding story of woe and triumph. It is so unlike anything else I’ve heard in 2021, give it time so your ears adjust and then you’ll appreciate the unique brilliance that is ‘Mundane’ in full flow. Don’t you love it when music gives you a genuine surprise? This is one of them.
Recommended track: Stalkers
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