Fuzzy Lights – Rule Of Twelfths

Fuzzy-Lights - Rule Of Twelfths

Fuzzy Lights – Rule Of Twelfths

Expectations are perhaps higher than ever for Cambridgeshire’s Fuzzy Lights upon the release of this long-anticipated third LP.  With supportive influential airplay from BBC 6Music and greater interest from the mainstream music press in the UK, following 2010’s tremendous Twin Feathers album, Rule Of Twelfths is one that we’ve been actively waiting for rather than one to surprise us out of the blue.  The question is; have these expectations weighed the band down in constructing what could be a route to even bigger things?

On initial inspection it seems that although heightened expectations aren’t openly addressed there is certainly a more self-conscious mood at play.  With the decision to make violinist Rachel Watkins the primary vocalist (over husband/guitarist Xavier Watkins), the sizeable reduction in instrumental tracks and guest strings from the Iskra Quartet (previously heard on albums by The XX and Jóhann Jóhansson), Rule Of Twelfths is arguably a more deliberately direct affair than preceding Fuzzy Lights recordings.  At first these progressions sound a little self-compromising and lacking in the mystery that made Twin Feathers such a slow-burning treasure.  Qualms only really come and go for the introductory trio of tracks though in this respect.  Thus, the opening “Summer’s Tide” is a welcoming if slightly over-thought attempt to conceive the offspring of Arcade Fire and My Bloody Valentine, with its swelling orchestrated folk-rock building into bleary post-shoegaze noise and dreaminess.  However, it’s a fusion that comes unstuck to some degree on the ensuing strains of “The Hour,” which repeats this rustic reverie and pedal-stomping formula less convincingly.  In its wake, “Blind” seems set to fall into the same trap too but manages to pull things back with a coda of discordance that is more purposefully channelled than overcooked.

Thankfully though, when the serene “Second Skin” rolls into the ears the record finds its equilibrium, as the band appear to relax into more naturally flowing and less ostentatious arrangements.  With its layered lilting harmonies, Robert Kirby-like strings and deft finger-picking, “Second Skin” is possibly the long-player’s most stunning and tranquil moment.  That’s not to say that the remained of the five pieces are slouches in comparison.  The wordless rippling and low-end twanging “Hallsands” nods to Yo La Tengo’s sublime Old Joy film score; the Xavier-voice-led “Restless” dexterously recalls his more soaring moments from Twin Feathers with emotive Dirty Three-style violin and freeform percussion interlaced with lush backing vocals escalating a lull into a storm; “Fever Dreams” happily suggests something from Espers III with looser rhythms and less acid-frazzled indulgence; the shimmering and almost-jazzy “Deeper River” imagines Sandy Denny borrowing Joni Mitchell’s backing ensemble from Court And Spark to rapturous uplifting effect; and the ghost-in-the-machine ambient closer of “Coming Home” is a beautiful but less desolate cousin to Low’s divine dronespace epic “Do You Know How To Waltz?”

Although Rule Of Twelfths could have become dashed upon the rocks of disappointment with its initially confused navigation, ultimately it sails masterfully on to even more hospitable new shores for Fuzzy Lights to explore.  For a band that has made self-reinvention between releases into a modus operandi, this is yet another significant and cherishable stride forwards.

Little Red Rabbit Records