Recommended: Faws – Blue Notes EP

When we first happened upon Faws back in January, he had quietly dropped his first collection of tracks over the Christmas period. Since then he’s been the subject of wild speculation, Spartacus-like claims to his identity and, most recently, a discussion about a the state of Irish music criticism and consumption. That’s a lot of talk, especially for someone who hasn’t even officially released anything. Next Monday sees the dual release of both the “Antonym” EP and his latest work, the “Blue Notes” EP.

Don’t let the despondent title of “Fuck It” put you off – it’s a glistening opener that shines with a neck-popping groove while retaining the organic feel of Faws’ last work. A one-sided phone conversation informs the track’s title, with a monologue implying some discord and distress, undermining the bright major chords that drive the track. “To Look Inside” is a brave piece of work – it takes a brave soul to sample something as famous and well worn as Chet Baker’s rendition of “My Funny Valentine”. The song itself is legendary in anyone’s voice, but Chet’s is one of the earliest and most heartfelt. The bravery lies in how much of the song Faws has chosen to use. Two lines, just two. It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t here – use too little of the song and the listener is left wanting more. Use too much, and it becomes a crutch, leading the track rather than simply informing it. The victory here lies in the drastic change in context. Like “Fuck It”, this is a joyous track, almost incandescent, with warm percussion and sparkling synths. Those two lines of Chet are a world away from the yearning irony of the original track, hinting instead at a glorious love song.

“Whitney” premiered last week on XLR8R, so you might know it well already. It’s another brave choice – the title itself can only lead in one direction, and the slowed-down marimba tones are a bit of a giveaway too. Like the previous track, “To Look Inside” takes its core from a famous dirge, but holds back on overuse, instead relying on the eponymous siren’s opening line – “Friday night” – and the wistful “why’d you turn and look at me” throughout. As well as pitching down those marimbas and vocals, the track glides by with two-step percussion around 101bpm, another unexpected yet welcome shift. Some four-and-a-half minutes in do we have any more than that, as the opening verse of “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” plays out in its entirety – but then it’s all over, that verse’s placement as defiant as it is a sop to the listener. “Hummingbird” lilts with a layered, shuffling beat, atop which glides what sounds like an Irish air melded with a troupe of backing vocals, as the lead cries “boy, I’m feeling you, my bodies getting cold”. It’s another adventurous trip on this release, proving that Faws isn’t afraid of risks. Not least with 3/4 closer “For Those Who Try”, which is all pianos, crashing percussion, mutated vocals and the crackle of vinyl that runs through these five tracks. Rattling strings add to the darkened mood, an unsettling closer, especially given the sparkle of the opening tracks. On the whole, it’s a bold and startling work, and while it may lack the variety of its predecessor, it’s abundant with audacious choices and unrelenting imagination.

Faws – Blue Notes EP is out on June 11.

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...