Tu Fawning began as something of a side project after the couple collaborated on each other’s records, with Repp featuring on Haege’s last album with 31Knots and Haege featuring prominently on Repp’s 2006 album The Absent And The Distant. With such a close relationship both musically and professionally it makes sense that they work together. But their debut release as Tu Fawning, 2010’s Hearts On Hold, never really took off as it ought to have. Second album A Monument is an entirely different proposition, however. This is the sound of Tu Fawning establishing themselves as a real band of stature rather than curious side project.
There is a staggering scope and sense of scale at work in A Monument’s experimental rock sound. The album is extremely percussive as rumbling tribal drums and snare cracks dominate punctuated by startling blasts of scabrous guitar. It’s hard to truly categorize Tu Fawning’s sound; it is far easier to marvel at the ease with which they flit between quiet folk tinged laments and all out sonic assaults.
Opening track Anchor is a mix of blissful choral vocals from Repp coupled with a swelling sense of ambition, a combination of tribal chant and gospel epiphany. Wager careers along on a wave of rumbling grungy guitars in a manner reminiscent of Arcade Fire while Blood Stains shows that the group are perfectly adept at rhythm as well as power and its ominous groove is captivating.
Tu Fawning are a band that are unafraid to experiment and, as the album proceeds, it takes a turn for the rather more avant-garde. In The Centre Of Powder White’s distorted ghostly vocals full of foreboding and intensity are reminiscent of the some of the starker moments on Portishead‘s Third. The massed vocal harmonies of Skin And Bone are incredibly intricate and impressive, with the twin vocals of Haege and Repp floating airily in the ether.
The vocal interplay between Haege and Repp is one of the main features of Tu Fawning’s sound and the dynamic between their voices works particularly well here, especially on album highlight To Break Into.
Despite all the impressive sonic invention there is a core of simply great songs that make up A Monument. A Pose For No One is a gentle ballad with Repp’s voice quavering as she sings, “You’re body is moving, I can’t find a face.” Closing track Bones is a spiralling piece of electro influenced rock which eventually evolves into a lovely stirring soulful climax. “Send me your love when I’m old and aching to be touched,” sings Repp making it a gloriously heartfelt way to end an impressive album.
The assorted members of Tu Fawning and the duo of Repp and Haege at its core have been prominent figures in their home city of Portland ensconced in a tight knit musical community. With A Monument they have shown they have the scope and ambition to cross over far beyond that Portland milieu.