Faunts – High Expectations/Low Results

High Expectations/Low Results

What a pleasant surprise this album is. Faunts comes to us from Edmonton (in Canada), where the cold weather seems to have given the band plenty of time to hole up and work on its sound. It’s a fine thing that the band’s tastes lean towards the atmospheric rock of Sigur Ros and early recordings from fellow Canadians Sianspheric, too, because the music on High Expectations/Low Results captures the moods of those artists without ripping them off.

Like last year’s Oktober People release, Faunts has managed to invest “shoegaze” with a little more credibility than it has enjoyed as of late. On this CD, you still get the big guitars awash in reverb and distortion (as on “Instantly Loved,” for example). But you also get some really delicate, simple Creation-like tunes. “Memories of Places We’ve Never Been” shows the band’s sensitive side, with its brisk verses and pensive choruses sounding like something you might have heard on the Cherry Red label way back when. That song’s quiet, bubbling keyboards fill in the background of the sound without getting in the way.

“Place I’ve Found” paces itself slowly, allowing you to really hear and focus on the aching chords that punctuate the downbeats. Those guitars have some kind of rich chorus effects that play against each other. Playing on opposite channels (left/right), their slightly different modulations cause a kind of rippling effect that gives the tune a sonic depth well suited to the mood of the sad chords being played. The entire 5:24 of the song passes without these chords changing – no verse/chorus/verse changes, really – but somehow the song never feels tiresome. Langorous and soporific – yes, as it’s intended to be – but not boring. “Parler de la Pluie et du Beau Temps,” roughly translating as “talk of the rain and the good times,” picks up from “Place I’ve Found” by again sustaining a mood of melancholy and hopefulness. It breaks into a shoegaze ending, though, where the guitarists get to rev things up a little bit.

“Will You Tell Me Then” starts with (again) the modulated, chorused guitar sound that marks these recordings, but this time it’s backed by distorted drums. The opening passage relents after a time, and the song turns out to be a Verve-like slice of delicate vocals riding over subtle keyboard chords and a kind-of puntcuated bass line. After a short break in the middle of the song, it resumes with a new energy; melodically echoing earlier movements in the song, the ending shows the band exercising itself a little. In fact, you almost get a guitar solo (tatsefully done of course) before the “wavy,” tremelo-like finish.

“Twenty-Three” and “Gone With the Day” together add to about 20 minutes, quite a bit of time to fill up if you don’t have good ideas or a command of your sound. Thankfully, Faunts seems to have both. “Twnety-Three” features a echoed, percussive, running undercurrent that augments the spare drumming, and it also features some vocoded vocals. (Before you go thinking of Cher’s use of the vocoder, remember that it pre-dates her and can be used with restraint.) “Twenty-Three” reminds me of Section 25 and Boards of Canada. The album’s finishing track, “Low Results,” bookends the albums instrumental intro “High Expectations” (thus the CD’s title) with a truly Boards of Canada-sounding piece.

The band seems to have put a lot of thought into this excellent work. Instead of delivering what might have been a shopworn, derivative take on its forebears’ ideas, Faunts instead puts together a collection of pieces that allow you to think and feel at the same time.