An elegant and elegiac, understated but rewarding addition to their quickly expanding discography
Fader‘s third album has its roots in the relative drudgery of DIY. During lockdown, synth mastermind Benge was decorating his house to a soundtrack of TV music from the ’80s and ’90s. While making music he revisited a number of tracks from old hard drives, the theme of fresh coats of paint for older surfaces uppermost in his mind.
Pleased with the results, he sent them to Neil Arthur, Fader’s vocal presence and the creative mastermind behind Blancmange. The working track titles were shades of paint, but with Arthur’s record of drawing lyrical inspiration from domestic minutiae, it is unsurprising to report that he took his lead from the colour titles, crafted a story from each one. With a loosely held theme of clocks and the passage of time also in the background, 10 elegant and elegiac songs were formed.
While DIY can be comforting for some, however, there is a latent dread running through Fader’s music. Porcelain in particular has a simmering tension – a dark, foreboding colour, where Arthur’s warning “Don’t transcend the classes” lasts long. Mondo is also dimly shaded, though this time speaks of deeper personal issues. Its production offers a steady trickle against a reverberating backdrop, and Arthur’s voice responds well to its watery surroundings. “I’ll call tomorrow,” he promises, though the song leaves a troubled trail, its vulnerability a stark evocation of lockdown loneliness.
There are punchier tracks, however. Gargoyle has echoes of mid-’80s Depeche Mode in the delivery of its title word, but “look at the skyline” proves to be an equally memorable hook. Arthur’s vocal delivery is of the typically gruff variety, but there is also stately elegance amid Benge’s silvery, elegiac loops.
The lyrics continue to impress and baffle in equal measure, finding inspiration high from what seems to be the most mundane of material. It’s doubtful the word ‘foolscap’ has been found anywhere near a pop song before, yet on Manilla it gets top billing, Arthur delighting in a hymnal chorus of “A4 Foolscap Manilla!”
Like many painting jobs, Quartz needs time to dry, allowing time for another coat or two, before the listener can stand back and fully appreciate its shades and colours. The rough edges are best left unsmoothed, for they provide character to the overall appearance of the room, while the lyrical gems resonate long after the songs have finished. Because of these elements, Fader’s third album is an understated but rewarding addition to their quickly expanding discography. Now all we need is a big white sheepdog on the cover…