Sunday, March 11, 2012

REVIEW// Young Astronaut: Fawn

South England quartet Young Astronaut's debut album 'Fawn' is host to an intriguing slew of influences and inspirations. Lush acoustic compositions recall artists like Ben Howard, a dappled folk-rock tone drawing comparisons to both Frank Turner and Bon Iver, poignant and passionate in its execution. Mumford & Sons' fondness for aggressive fagility turns up more than once too, early Radiohead sensibilities seeping into the nuanced vocal strain. I am a fan of all of the above, so unsurprisingly, 'Fawn' clicked from the off. Keeping it on a constant rotation reveals a formulaic structure within the first five tracks, but there is more than enough instrumental and dynamic variation to make up for this flaw. Young Astronaut have recorded, in 'Fawn', an album that lives up to every expectation promised on paper!

Opener 'Hey Little Ghost' begins how the record means to go on. It's swelling keyboards a core around which the song revolves, things quickly amalgamate into a vast cosmological asteroid of a track. Layers of sound build, drums and chords pooling together, broken by interludes of guitar-driven rock and quiet orchestration. The twang of 'Broken Teeth' is an evocative one, hand-claps and retrospective lyricism following in 'Little Ghost's footsteps. Another mid-track break strips things back before the dam opens up and the sound crashes in. 'Dust's focus is on rock, fast verses and fast instrumentation lending everything a pace not easily forgotten. 'Triumph' succeeds this breathless energy well, bringing things back to a comfortable simmer. The swells and builds have lost the potency they had before, but it's a great number all the same. 'Harmony's vocals are notable, innately sad but resolute in their determination to not appear so.

'The Cloud Collector' follows 'Shadows' beautifully stark, personal guitar. A melodic piano falls into place, bubbling under surreal autumnal reverb. Perfectly pitched singing comes close to cracking, tears choked back and sobs stifled. "What is it for?" floats atop a void of uncontrollable grief, all that pain emptied into a period of flawless, innocent aggression. The switch between this and the image of a broken man is unnoticeable, and 'The Cloud Collector' sounds all the better for it. There is a warmly oriental feel about the penultimate number 'Sugar Is Sweeter Than Gold', an unnerving cello hum prevailing over strings and a low, throbbing voice. Ripples of still water distort stirring theatricality, both carnivals and princes running through the lyrics. It is the sensual refrain however that lifts the whole LP. The concluding notes and final, prolonged fluctuation lead into 'Death In The Foothills', an aptly memorable end to this debut. Epic and huge and fantastic, 'Fawn' finally fades away.

This isn't a faultless record. A couple of fillers intersect songs that for the most part follow a set structural pattern. The first half of 'Fawn' falls the most foul to this accusation, with a stunning second half pulling the album back from possible allegations, of being perhaps a little predictable. However, multi-layered sounds echo a multitude of influences, combining to create something curiously familiar and strikingly unique. 'Fawn' is being given away for free, and as such is certainly worth a download. Stream 'The Cloud Collector' below and grab a copy of 'Fawn' from Young Astronaut's website over here.