The Instrumental Pop of the Brothers Fallen (MP3s)

“All flutters, bumps and whispers by Fallen” — that phrase is the only hint at what’s inside the album Feathers, released late in December as a free download on the Resting Bell label by the duo Fallen, which consists of brothers Andrew and Richard Fryer, who are from the south of England, and their small collection of bedroom music-making tools. The phrase appears on the back cover of Feathers, like an epitaph — an association made all the stronger by the image behind it, of leaves in varying states of decay.

[audio:|titles=”Feathers”|artists=Fallen] [audio:|titles=”Iron Bark”|artists=Fallen] [audio:|titles=”Clung to the Wreckage”|artists=Fallen]

The head-nodding rhythm of the opening (and title) track sounds like crushed cotton dancing among steam pipes, its soft tones bounce amid slow pounds of percussion. It has all the structure of mechanized pop, but at a tempo that is better suited to film or TV use than to radio. Which is very much in its favor (MP3).

Even better is “Iron Bark,” which for some time gives the impression that it doesn’t quite know where it’s going. It moves between synth and electric piano before introducing all manner of oddities: a brief double-time drum pattern, warped vocal snippets, broken beats. Ultimately it’s classic homemade electronic pop: music in which the composition is more a matter of layers being added than of complex melodic or thematic development. The accrual works here because the elements are hinted at before they are fully introduced. And because they’re all different enough that the additions increase not just overall sonic density but interior contrast (MP3).

“Woven on the Wind,” like the title track, ably mixes soft and hard — not soft and loud, the way the Pixies did, but soft and hard: a main foreground sound that is the sonic equivalent of lush gray flannel, and then these hard poppy beats that slice it to pieces (MP3). You know the rhythm; it’s the auto-pop pneumatic beat of Brian Eno’s collaborations with John Cale and Paul Simon, or of Cornershop at its best.

The other half of Feathers‘s six songs are closer to true pop music, with half-sung lyrics that inevitably relegate the non-vocal music to background.

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