“Three Fact Fader” – ‘Engineers’ [Joint Review]
I’ve been dieing to review “Three Fact Fader” for about a week and a half, now. Ever since we found it, I think my partner would agree that we’ve got a real find here. They sound uncannily like a well-matured ‘Kyte’, and the music isn’t too dissimilar, neither are the vocals: but they sure-as-hell have something about them that’ll have you on your back, gazing at the sky. And if the sky’s too boring, look at your shoes instead…
“Simon Phipps – vocals, Dan Macbean – guitar, Mark Peters – bass, and Sweeney – on drums…” make up ‘Engineers’. After their debut in 2004, following the release of their first EP prior, it’s been five years in the making. “Three Fact Fader” will leave you in ecstatic bliss, following the release of all emotional angst and fury, into a mellow state on the edge of consciousness. It is unavoidable, such an epic as this, deserving further recognition: so pump those amps, tune those IPods, and turn off your radio!
I’ll begin by quoting from their www.last.fm site: “… [because] the real clue is in their name: they approach their music like engineers, carefully constructing wonderful walls of sound.” You’ll find that “Three Fact Fader” is a mechanical-musical-masterpiece, literally – from start to finish, you’ll be delightfully-deafened with the amounts, variations and compositions of sound ‘Engineers’ has on offer for you. It’s like a well-crafted machine, it’s the only metaphor that works – strangely. ‘Engineers’ don’t just work on the chassis, they approach both the interior and exterior, until a monster, like “Three Fact Fader”, is born…
You can really hear it in the composition of the music: which you can usually tell from a decent chorus, the layering of sound and more importantly, a track’s length. The longer, in some circumstances, is not always the best – some bands have the ability to stretch out a song like not enough butter on a slice of bread. It scrapes across unevenly, and you find you’re missing the middle; you’ve really only got the beginning and the end that you want to eat/listen-to. And that really hampers a song – if you feel like skipping ahead to a certain point. But ‘Engineers’ have made it so the middle of the bread is just as fulfilling as the crust:
“Hmmm… mmm… Finger-licking good!” – ‘Futurama’ [I’ll let you guess which character…]
Their approach towards music is what a majority of artists these days are lacking, whether or not one sound is harmonious – or, conversely, inharmonious [if appropriate] – with another. Experimental music is all about combining sounds, testing what works with what, and it’s why I love this sub-genre especially: it shows a band has guts, that they’re not afraid to be different; ‘The Mars Volta’ toy with this magnificently, although I find it difficult to get really enthused with a lot of their music, [‘Octahedron’ – their latest release – an exception]. ‘Engineers’ are on that cusp, and they might even pursue it if given a little nudge in the right direction by the people, but they’ve got the qualities of shoegaze, post-rock and alternative combined into one glorious whole. Record-labels these days aren’t the ones unwilling to experiment with experimental, I think it has a lot to do with how mainstream radio chooses it’s listenings…
Instead, Highly Evolved is here for your non-mainstream bands, albeit some well-known. I’ve had some requests to backtrack through the years and pick ‘classic-albums’ for reviews, and am still toying with the idea. It’s difficult to steer back into the past when you’ve got albums that are so enticingly-strung yet to come. If you’re reading and think it’s a good idea, just comment, and I’ll add your name to the blank list…
Yes: now back to ‘Engineers’. We’ve got tracks nearly always on the four-minute-mark, give or take twenty-or-so seconds. Some exceptional five-minute-listings, and a six just for the heck of it. But I’d like to draw your attention to one song in particular, and I think it’ll make me and my partner’s top-track list for ’09. It has ‘Alan Parsons Project’ elements to it [‘I Robot’], it’s beginning is very nostalgic, and the synth is like a cross between contemporary and classic. The vocals are what drew me to the comparison of ‘Kyte’, they’ve got an airy-quality about them. But it’s the synth that will attract your attention. If you have to find it in your heart to dislike the rest of the album, “Clean Coloured Wine”, ‘Engineers’ opener for “Three Fact Fader”, then this is the keeper – and you might have found this true for ‘Operahouse’ and their track “Escape From The Sun”. You can tell it’s the flagship for the album, and it’s this sort of potential, this ‘flaunt’ if you will, that grabs you and keeps you glued to your seat.
It’s important for an album to do this…
Although the rest is exceptionally good, I can’t get “Clean Coloured Wine” out of my head. ‘Engineers’ has their track listing flow marvellously from one to the next, from “Sometimes I Realise” following the afore mentioned, to “International Dirge” and the plucked-chicken-guitar afterwards. “Three Fact Fader”, the track, most importantly features in the bottom-middle of the album, and is strangely not last or first. But it’s position in comparison with the rest seems appropriate; titling the album with it is an understatement, and a minor fault however – it’s not the best they have to offer. Exampling this to others for band-reference is unhelpful, same too with any other tracks alone. It’s an album that needs the rest to ‘bind-it-together’, so to speak; like a book.
With such a solid-state for the album three-quarters of the way through, you need a track/s that are able to bring you back out of the rut and into reality just soon enough for you to realise it’s the end. ‘Vib Gyor’ did this with me all during the week, and it’s why I rated them a five-star. ‘Engineers’ have got this going on their third-last track “The Fear Has Gone”, and it opens with some solemn, waving violin. The first minute-and-a-half is like this, but the explosion into loud and heavy is like a slap in the face at the 1:53.
It’s got some elements from ‘The Killers’ “Goodnight, Travel Well”, but just doesn’t quite nail it for me; I still do love it, though. More importantly, it’s not last, either…
This is the wake-up call. Well-defined, emphatic, and potent, but just out of reach for last. Instead, “What Pushed Us Together” features in its place, and the synth here is reminiscent from “Clean Coloured Wine”, and some of the stuff ‘The Midnight Juggernaughts’ – who are releasing a follow-up to their smash hit, Dystopia – have in their music. It’s that old arcade-machine fleeting synth, I’ve no other analogy to describe it with. It’s short, and quick to the point, and is just suitable enough for me not to criticise it – it ends with the trickle of synth, and it’s finish is open, rather than closed.
Ratings, ratings, ratings – people mightn’t love it, it could turn out to be another “Veckatimest”, although from what I read and hear, it’s surprised a lot of people who are now infatuated with it. I can’t find that click with “Veckatimest”, but I certainly can with “Three Fact Fader”. It’s got the layers I love, the vocals and the length that I admire for a good album. And aside from some minor changes I’d personally make, the album is going to receive a generous 4.5-outta-5 from me – if only for “Clean Coloured Wine”. I’ve managed to stay my guns, and not waffle too much – example and inform you guys about a variety of things, and:
“… I AM PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT TODAY’S LISTINGS STATED THAT ‘HIGHLY EVOLVED’ SECURED A WHOPPING 130 HITS ALONE TODAY – BEST RECORD EVER!!!”
Keep reading, guys – and we’ll keep writing.
The Enantiomorphic God