“The Fool” – ‘Warpaint’
‘Warpaint’ is all-girl quartet Jenny Lee Lindberg (vocals / bass), Emily Kokal (vocals / guitar), Theresa Wayman (vocals / guitar) and Stella Mozgawa (drums), centred in Los Angeles, America. Formed back ’04, and following the successful release of their (debut) EP “Exquisite Corpse”, they return with full-length feature album “The Fool”, sure to delight newcomer and fan alike.
Pessimistically downcast, their psychedelic, lo-fi indie-rock style captivates instrumentally, vocally and lyrically. Whether it is Lindberg, Kokal & Wayman lullabying us with their bleak, dystopian mantra-chanting, or their inseparable bass/guitar duets conspiring with equal disorientation, ‘Warpaint’ sets a sombre mood: a looking-glass for listeners.
Artists John Frusciante (former guitarist) and Josh Klinghoffer (current guitarist) – from influential band ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ – have had a hand shaping ‘Warpaint’, with Frusciante mixing their debut, and Klinghoffer featuring a guest appearance (on drums). Now ‘Warpaint’ break away with their follow-up “The Fool”, mixed by Siouxsie Sioux, Andrew Weatherall, and Adam Samuels. A nine-track listing just shy of fifty-minutes, ‘Warpaint’ deliver track after mind-blowing track.
Band-comparisons to go on are the likes of ‘Chimes & Bells’ and ‘The Middle East’, whose lyrics are not mired in overbearing instrumentation or (sometimes) unintelligible vocals. They feature similar characteristics – simple, yet sophisticated, reinforcing instrumentation; a mix of acoustic and electric; depressive-over-uplifting soundscapes. Yet, ‘Warpaint’ sets itself apart with disillusioning moments of off-key instrumentation, hallowing vocal-duets and unexpected acoustical/electrical crescendos. At times, ‘Warpaint’ feels more experimental in nature – its often airy-resonance tied back with distortion or static, earns itself brisk, temporary moments of ‘Artefacts For Space Travel’ lo-fi. And at the same time, these are then obliterated with psychedelic solos, self-defeating spirals into guitar, into bass, into piano, into soul. The all-female vocals add for a hypnotic, hallucinatory psiren-esque effect, and I find myself contented in its grasp. The sometimes-clean-sometimes-sharp changeover between tracks is as much a slip from one realm into another as it is a slap in the face, cold shower or wakeup from a dream; it is always sudden, painless on the clean and painful on the sharp, being either too contented or not enough. More often than not, I will drift from the beginning to the end and back again, several times without noticing. In this respect, “The Fool” is totally immersive…
“Set Your Arms Down” opens the album, featuring a repetitive, yet mesmerizing guitar/bass riff – the heartbeat of the track. A gentle lathering of drum-kit percussion in tandem with the riff, and then the high-pitched introduction of vocals, create balance between soft and loud, high and low. Much in the same way ‘Chimes & Bells’ is devoid of momentum, ‘Warpaint’ seems stuck in a slow trudge or tired at a gentle jog. The lack of power-crescendos is instead replaced by all-instrument crescendos where every feature of the track will instead come into focus – into loudness – and create the façade of speed. And then, just as you begin to accept “Set Your Arms Down” for all of its eccentricities, you’re thrust into “Warpaint”. The resonant, off-key twang of guitar displaces the effort of drum-kit percussion, to take over. Our attention is carefully directed between guitar and vocals to great effect. Then the culminating finale finishes brusquely, allowing a silent period of grace to develop for the introduction of “Undertow”.
By now, it’s easy to see the influential role Frusciante & Klinghoffer have had upon ‘Warpaint’. I absolutely adore ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ – and some of their magnificent, captivating guitar riffs seem to have rubbed-off onto ‘Warpaint’. Not to obvious that’s-Red-Hot-Chili-Peppers-all-over extremes, but to keen, audiophile nuance and semblance. ‘Warpaint’ have taken it, used it, manipulated it, and shaped it into something their own, themselves, theirs.
And perhaps the most theirs track that “The Fool” has to offer appears smack-bang in the centre of the album: “Shadows”. It reminds me of “Beach On The Moon” by ‘Kurt Vile’, one of the first tracks to really captivate me on absolutely-positively-awesome-guitar-riff terms. Since, I’ve fallen helplessly for the likes of ‘Dire Straits’ and ‘Pink Floyd’, but “Shadows” is like a word on the tip-of-the-tongue, a misplaced metaphor: a palindrome of déjà vu. It doesn’t make sense – it just clicks, it just is – “… it’s the vibe.” Songs like this are clarity, and “Shadows” is epiphanic. The off-key opening of acoustic guitar, the floating, ambient vocals together with a gentle descent into piano, all make for a delicate beginning. And then percussion, abrupt, explosive – harsh against the harsher chorus. Then stop: guitar-vocal duet…
It’ll be alright…
Tracks like “Lissie’s Heart Murmur” are similar in style, but not as profound in effect. Nonetheless, tracks themselves are without fault – there’s just not enough of them. I want more. “The Fool”, in its personality, is characteristically introverted, but not borderline catatonic; like someone you never talk to. Just takes someone to pry them open, find out all there is to know about them. And I think it’s well worth the venture…
Reviewer’s Pick: “Shadows”
Stand-out Tracks: “Set Your Arms Down”, “Undertow”, “Shadows”, “Baby”, “Lissie’s Heart Murmur”
The Enantiomorphic God