Review : Tu Fawning - A Monument
PitchforkIn the rocky chasm between lust and love, it's often the non-events, the not-quite-happenings, that gain emotional weight. These are the concerns of A Monument, the second LP by Portland's Tu Fawning. "If my skin had scales and colorful details/ We'd travel the roads and never go home," Corrina Repp laments on opener "Anchor". It seems possible she is a woman who literally desires to be reptilian; trailed by a dry shaker rattle, her voice slinks and coils over big drums and arid, rolling guitar, as if already propelled by a hundred tiny bones. But that wish is also the album's main hangup taken to an extreme: You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you can make some dense and darkly lovely music about it.
It may seem funny to talk about this band in terms of its lyrical themes. Tu Fawning were originally formed as some experimental woodshed for Portland musicians Repp and Joe Haege (she of a long-running solo folk career, he of trios Menomena and 31 Knots). Their 2008 debut EP, Secession, and their first proper record, 2010's Hearts on Hold, seemed like sonic moodboards more than anything else-- scraps of 1920s nightclub jazz, baroque piano flourishes, and the kind of stark percussion that's referred to as "tribal" all basted together into patchworks only generally suggestive of coherence, purpose, or an emotional core. (An exception was "Apples and Oranges", a piano-heavy, painfully frank song about trying to discern the origins of a basket of fruit but also about reconciling friendship and kindness with the soul-stealing tendencies of crippling depression.) On those first releases, strands of "oohs" and "aahs" threatened to outstrip all instances of the English language, and the words that were there were often buoyed off and away by waves of sound that rolled and arced endlessly and switched back upon themselves.
But something happened over the past few years: Tu Fawning became really good at writing honest-to-goodness songs. "Wager", the album's clear triumph, is the closest the band allowed itself to a pop single, with the giddy guitar crunch of the pre-chorus leaping straight into the wide-open arms of the big, hopeful chorus: "There'll be no confusion with this one, I'm certain." Overall, A Monument inverts the group's earlier approach, allowing the atmospherics to act in service of the songs rather than necessitating the whole endeavor. "It was another arcane soiree/ Of debutantes and men with sway," Haege sings on "To Break Into" over a swell of menacing horns and interlaced ripples of electric guitar; Repp later echoes the same verse before Haege returns with those horns again, and some eerily plaintive piano, all padded out by a crush of guitar, his voice close to a desperate growl, hers cool and smooth. "Bones", the album's final track, calls up the hallmarks of both Afro-pop and woozy, golden-era Black Sabbath, then spills into an ethereal, tempo-shifting closer, at the end of which it's not difficult to imagine Repp ascending into some bank of sun-ringed clouds, platinum-haired and beatific....full text
ConsequenceofsoundWhen Corrina Repp and Joe Haege formed Tu Fawning several years back, the outfit screamed “side project!” Repp had released three solo albums and had earned the reputation as one of Portland, OR’s better female vocalists, while Haege had his own career as the frontman of 31Knots. Even with 2008′s Secession EP and 2010′s Hearts on Hold LP (with Liza Rietz and Toussaint Perrault), Repp and Haege juggled other projects, Repp as a member of Viva Voce in 2009, and Haege as a touring member of Menomena.
The hyper-prolific Haege recorded a solo album, acted in a movie, and 31Knots released their seventh record all in 2011, so it would have been easy to believe that this was just an experimental vehicle for its band members. But with the band’s new, sprawling, variety-show-of-an-album A Monument, it’s official: Tu Fawning is a legitimate band.
A Monument counters Hearts on Hold’s penchant for repetition right away with lead single “Anchor”. The song begins with a singular bass drum, before synthesizers sprout up in a dark-yet-playful melody. Repp’s voice rains down on the instruments to create an ethereal atmosphere that grows as other elements enter the song. “Blood Stains” continues the varied construction of the album by bringing in some R&B horns, spawning a slower, ominous answer to the Eurythmics’ “Would I Lie To You” and “Missionary Man”....full text
MusicomhIn the supremely talented Portland Oregon indie scene the duo of Joe Haege and Corrina Repp that make up the core of Tu Fawning have always been followed by excitement and anticipation.
Tu Fawning began as something of a side project after the couple both collaborated on each other’s records with Repp featuring on Haege’s last album with 31Knots and Haege featuring prominently on Repp’s 2006 album The Absent And The Distant. With such a close relationship both musically and professionally it makes sense that they work together but their debut release as Tu Fawning, 2010’s Hearts On Hold, never really took off as you felt it should. Second album A Monument is an entirely different proposition, however, and it is the sound of Tu Fawning establishing themselves as a real band of stature rather than curious side project.
There is a staggering scope and sense of scale at work in A Monument’s experimental rock sound. The album is extremely percussive as rumbling tribal drums and snare cracks dominate punctuated by startling blasts of scabrous guitar. It’s hard to truly categorize Tu Fawning’s sound; it is far easier to marvel at the ease with which they flit between quiet folk tinged laments and all out sonic assaults.
Opening track Anchor is a mix of blissful choral vocals from Repp coupled with a swelling sense of ambition, a combination of tribal chant and gospel epiphany. Wager careers along on a wave of rumbling grungy guitars in a manner reminiscent of Arcade Fire while Blood Stains shows that the group are perfectly adept at rhythm as well as power and its ominous groove is captivating.
Tu Fawning are a band that are unafraid to experiment and as the album proceeds it takes a turn for the rather more avant-garde. In The Centre Of Powder White’s distorted ghostly vocals full of foreboding and intensity are reminiscent of the some of the starker moments on Portishead’'sThird. The massed vocal harmonies of Skin and Bone are incredibly intricate and impressive with the twin vocals of Haege and Repp floating airily in the ether....full text
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- 1. Anchor
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