Fotocrime – Always Night (2017)

Powered by synthesisers and drum machines, Always Night is the follow up to Always Hell, by American band Fotocrime.Both releases were released in 2017, though on listening you could easily think they were released in the 1980s. Channeling aspects of New Wave and pairing them with the maudlin vocal style that draws similarities to Robert Smith – it’s easy to see Always Night being warmly welcomed by fans of that genre.

Duplicate Days sets the tone for the album as each instrument is added to the mix, a deeper insight is gained into what we’re in for. For me, 80’s nostalgia tracks are only as good as the vocals on top of them. Fotocrime does not disappoint in the vocals department, with singer R/Pattern having a smooth distinct baritone voice. His voice is restrained in delivery, providing the balance needed for this style.

At Play In The Night Tide could, to my ears, easily be a punk song with a different vocal delivery. The guitars are shrill and capture the listener’s focus until they cede to the synths in the bridge/breakdown. I particularly enjoy when songs strip themselves down to almost nothing and rebuild for a climactic ending, and this song is no exception. The final chorus is elevated with backing vocals to play off the main vocal, remaining true to what we’ve already been introduced to but adding small variations to keep the listener engaged.

Carried by a repeated metronomic synthesiser line that starts the song, In the Trance of Love, the synthesiser drops in and out subtly when needed. In the Trance of Love shows another side of the band with bassist Shelley Anderson sharing vocal duties in a call and response style. Adding the female vocals creates a nice break from the monotonic vocals of self-styled R/Pattern (Ryan Patterson), which while excellent, could feel fatiguing when unbroken over the course of an album.

Always Hell musically reminds me of a Midnight Oil song, not any song in particular, but it shares a similar DNA. The gated snare, driving bass, synths and slightly dirty guitars, it could all very easily have Peter Garrett singing about the plight of a minority group with his iconic dance moves. Always Hell feels like it could use another line of lyrics in the chorus, the repeated refrain of “It’s always hell, always hell” is catchy but lacks the variety for how often it is repeated. Even the addition of a cliched “always hell, yeah” would have probably done it for me. If not that, cutting thirty seconds off the four-minute runtime would have helped it feel tighter and more impactful.

Plate Glass Eyes is the shortest song on the EP coming in at under two and a half minutes. It’s the most punk rock song on the album, I think due to the length and as a result of the length, the energy. This is an example of how shortening the song reduces the impact of the repeated lyrics, it doesn’t stick around long enough to grow fatigued.

Tectonic Shift (Continental Mix) feels like an experimental piece at the end of the EP. I’m down with that. The gated snare is replaced with drones and almost all of the instruments are distorted or have had a lo-fi effect put on them. It provides a strange ending to an EP that until this track had a limited palette of sounds, though, having said that, I’d love to hear some of the elements of Tectonic Shift flow through into future material. Adding some lo-fi or heavily distorted tones into the New Wave palette will bring it from the 80’s sound into an early 90’s Nine Inch Nails, industrial sort of palette. I am genuinely interested in hearing these musicians, particularly vocally, working in that industrial palette.

Fans of New Wave or any of those 80’s nostalgic bands that are releasing stuff at the moment will love this EP. I’ve not heard any of Ryan Patterson’s former band, Coliseum, though now I’m going to check them out because I like his voice and want to hear how he used it in a different context.

 

Always Night by Fotocrime, available now on Bandcamp

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