From the icy heart of Edmonton, F&M burrows its way through the snow and cold with the flickering flames of its tonal poetry. On their first album in three years, Ryan and Rebecca Anderson and Brian Reichert deliver another dose of meticulous melodies, hypnotic lyrical repetition and a simultaneously chilling and burning minimalist style.
The fire and ice mentioned above are deliberate; F&M are constantly singing of balances: fire and ice; light and darkness; love and hate. Songwriting and vocals are split between the deep and gentle voice of Ryan and the mellifluous tones of Rebecca. The contrasts dominate songs, like the closer “Take Me Out.” Lyrics like “burning fires, falling snow” and “scold me harshly, but sing it nicely” play like a tug of war over a frantic yet subdued picking of acoustic guitar.
But sometimes the contrast plays out in relativity. “I Have Never Seen Such Darkness” is anchored in somehow-eerie accordion and few real words—in between the “la la la” lines are simple proclamations: “Oh give a heart” and “My heart is left beating.” The whimsical approach to darkness is juxtaposed with “Show Me Your Light.” Whereas the light should bring relief, it’s just beyond Ryan’s reach; “I’m a ship late at night, so show me your light” and later “Throw me off the deck, but throw me a rope/I’m a man overboard, so show me your light.” The statements are made that much more effective by, as usual, the minimal musical backdrop.
The band is as effective simple as it is more complex. Perhaps the height of F&M’s complexity comes in with its first three songs. “Hands In” begins deceptively simply as Ryan sings “I’m down…for anything you have planned” before a second guitar joins, then some thunderous piano. “And We Will Mend Our Broken Hearts” subtly brings Rebecca’s voice into the fold over gentle guitar. And Rebecca’s six-minute epic “Kukushka” retains its power first shown last year. With words by Victor Tsoi and some frantic mandolin, it’s a strong and quiet jewel.
While the Andersons’ lyrical and vocal interplay add life to the song, Bryan Reichert gives the music an extra push, supply scores of additional instrumentation from the aforementioned mandolin to violin and percussion.
Perhaps it’s just a cold time of year, but At Sunset We Sing feels especially warm and inviting, like the comforts of a pleasant dream.
Top Tracks: “And We Will Mend Our Broken Hearts”; “I Have Never Seen Such Darkness”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*