Faunts – M4 EP (2007)

Every late autumn my adoptive town goes through a phase when it shrouds itself in mist. It’s white-out time and it lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. This year I almost thought the city’s yearly white shroud would be abandoned, until this morning. Looking out the window I feel like the buildings might as well be up in the sky, immersed in thick clouds. So I thought Faunts’ “M4” should really hit the spot today, with it’s ravenous appetite for space and delicate, frosty attention to detail.

This Canadian group is a band of brothers – three of the five members are in fact brothers, which is a rare thing indeed, and I think it shows. When their creative collaboration works, the band sounds very coherent aesthetically, very precise and pristine. When it doesn’t, the music ends up a bit monotonous and, dare I say it, boring, which I think is the plague of many bands which draw at least part of their inspiration from post-rock. Don’t get me wrong, I love post-rock usually, but I feel the tension in that music comes from a constant fight with silence. The musicians seem to constantly be on the verge of losing this fight and simply giving up, and in the meanwhile, every note they manage to project sounds like the last, which, as I said, can either work spectacularly or just produce an excruciating, energy-draining effect. For the most part, Faunts manage to fight furiously on this EP (save for one track which sadly pales in comparison). It’s no wonder their “hit” song is part of this track list.

The story of how this band really started getting some attention is a special one indeed. In 2007 BioWare (a great game studio) used the M4 Part. II track as the music for the credits roll of one of their best games. Mass Effect won the Game of The Year award that year and it deserved it. So many people loved it that Faunts’ track really sparked the interests of a huge number of gamers, which I think propelled the band’s popularity a great deal. This is how I heard of them in fact and it’s pretty safe to assume that at least their Romanian audience stems from the very same place. Part of the reason Mass Effect was so great is that Faunts’ track doesn’t have to sound like the kind of thing you’d expect to hear at the end of a game. It’s an epic, expansive, urgent track which can stand on its own on any rock radio station or channel. So for all you readers who might have a negative reaction to the idea of gaming, relax, we’re not talking Mario here.

But I digress, yet again. The “M4” EP is, I think, Faunts’ best work yet. What impresses me most is not the ability to suggest space, to draw endless horizontal lines in the mind of the listener, but rather the patience, precision and formidable inspiration in creating each song on a production level. Usually there’s a certain gap between the part of the music you feel really stems from the artist and the part which is the sound engineer’s and producer’s idea – the little additions in mixing, the differences in the volume level between instruments meant to better define a group’s target audience, veering them towards pop or rock or indie or… you name it. These little tips and tricks become apparent after a while, you can tell the style of a production team. Think about it this way: Phil Spector is know for creating the “Wall of Sound” effect on the albums of the artists he worked with. These include The Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, The Ramones, Starsailor and so on and so forth. It’s a producer technique which ended up defining the sound of the sixties! No small feat. Well, when the balance between that and the music itself becomes destabilized then the music has a lot to lose. Fortunately, in Faunts’ case, the partnership is flawless.

Listen to the way the beats are constructed, listen to the delicate, barely audible but completely necessary acoustic guitars in the background of some of these tracks, the general feel of care they put in the sound of the album, the love that’s there, permeating the album on every level. They didn’t so much record this album as they grew it, nurtured it, crystallized it slowly and with infinite care, like one of those pure sapphire disks quantum physicists use to create levitating super-conductors. No wonder the music manages so well to hold on to that certain tension, that electric urgency which counterbalances that which could’ve otherwise become a bland, overdone technique of “space rock” in general – the sweeping, melancholy guitar weep to be found throughout the album. To paraphrase a very close friend of mine, grandeur is depressing. At least untamed, self-indulgent grandeur. Faunts manage to glide past this pitfall, infusing their songs with liquid nitrogen, killing off all the excess and leaving only the pristine, spectacular shapes sound can freeze into, like blue cigarette smoke in a neon cube. White upon white upon white! Enjoy!

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