Can we call this a comeback album? Fanfarlo’s debut Reservoir dropped in 2009 and slowly gathered a head of steam that saw it pop up in many an end of year round up. But these days it seems that if you don’t churn out an album every 12 months then you’re dead or consigned to the wilderness. Whichever wilderness Fanfarlo have been hanging out in, they’ve made one of those rare discs that pulls off just the right degree of sophomore progression and invention without utterly turning its back on its well-loved predecessor.
Reservoir was a multi-layered affair taking its cue from the then Canadian music scene with prominent strings and all manner of other orchestration thrown at it. The influences on this new album see more of a leap, with this London-based group carving themselves out as the next Yeasayer or Talking Heads. It’s hardly surprising with producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter) on board.
Rooms Filled With Light is, by the band’s own admission, more of an album of light and dark contrasts. The sonic aperture is wide open with more modern and experimental textures in comparison to Reservoir’s organically quirky strings. The wait between the two albums appears to have resulted in a much weirder, more abstract experience, but it’s no less brilliant for it.
Replicate is an odd track to kick off the album, but it lures you in to the strange borderline-synthetic atmosphere of the disc. The trademark strings are still prominent but occupy a more complementary role. Fans of the previous album will love lead single Deconstruction, and Tunguska is also a highlight with a Dexys Midnight Runners’-esque sax complementing Simon Balthazar’s vocals. Feathers is also brilliant, and while there’s less earwormery to be had overall, there’s much to unpack with each listen.
The only quibble centres on the disc’s conclusion. Where Reservoir ended with a charming and ghostly instrumental track, this album concludes with a messy and superfluous sub-minute coda. But at such a miniscule length it’s hardly an elephant in the room.
It’s good to have Fanfarlo back and see the band delivering on their promise (and then some), and while this new album lacks the immediate warmth of its predecessor there’s much pleasure to be had wallowing in its rich patterns. It’s the sound of a confident band who are in control and not afraid to head out of their comfort zone. It may be classed as a comeback of sorts, but it’s moreover an act of rejuvenation and an exciting mission statement for the future.