reviewed by Jack Derricourt
What kind of canvas do you choose for your second album? You’ve already caught the attention of listeners and watchers with some interesting ideas. You want to move forward without abandoning too many of your darlings? How do you find a balance between novelty and essentials?
No problem, say Victoria’s Fountain, just watch us get to work.
Fountain 2 is the answer to so many of the aforementioned questions. The foursome are not out of the post-punk, krautrock woods yet. But the foliage has changed colour. There are new tricks of the light playing off the leaves. Guitars and drums are brittle and harsh on the ear, and the bass is stumbling with intent, like the last time round. Everything is particularly tight as well, something I’ve come to expect of Fountain’s songsmithery. The majority of tracks sit comfortably around the Motown standard of two minutes or so — gloom-cracking closer “Two Ugly Doves” being the standout exception (emphasis on standout). However, the divisions between dissonance and compassionate order are more rigidly applied on 2. The segments lend each other power, eliciting diverse, complimentary moods to each track — see “High Strung on Zen.”
The heavy delivery of vocals has returned. Yet the quality of the lyrics has skyrocketed. That’s not to say the material on Fountain’s original release was inferior; the new songs exhibit a subtlety of word choice and texture: “fossilized geranium” and “dressed for succession” alone are found in “Egg Island.” With so much wordplay condensed into each song, it’s hard not to get distracted. The pieces all come together to form compelling images and arrangements of sound sense, the greatest of these stemming from the combination of rich lyrical profundity and jammy rolling beats in “Landline.”
Pleasant diversions lie in wait: dissonant assemblages like opener “Upset Sea Shells” and the carnivorous sound-hole that is “Brass Junction.” Dark synths and strings plucked like a Van Gogh guitarist find otherworldly form in these musical sketches. Both tracks are fully integrated into the flow of the album, acting as tonal signposts, markers for the features still to come.
This is a championship war canoe of a sophomore release. It should not be taken lightly, and listened to heartily. Buy the ticket, ride your bike.
Top Track: “Egg Island”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)