Free and legal MP3: Fanfarlo (tense, unusual chamber pop)

Unusual song lacking any rock-band instruments, but which keeps me coming back for more.


“Replicate” – Fanfarlo

Keep your ears on the synthesizer here. It has a wonderfully goofy-fiendish sound to it, half haunted house, half vintage sci-fi. It is also the only instrument on display in this song that you might otherwise normally find in a rock band. Everything else here is a string, a woodwind, or a piece of percussion of the sort on display on the percussionist’s table in the back of the orchestra.

I’m not sure what prompted the unusual instrument choice here. But the strangest thing is how you almost don’t register it. You notice the song’s odd sense of tension, and sparseness, and slow unfolding-ness, but not its wholesale acoustic/orchestral foundation. But check it out: no guitars, no bass, no drums. The focus is on Simon Balthazar, a Swede fronting a British band, whose Bryan Ferry-ish warble has a sneaky depth even as he spends half the song singing in stuttery slivers. His band mates meanwhile get to sing primarily in howling, wordless bursts. Okay so “Replicate” is pretty much weird beyond all explanation. And yet there is alluring muscle here, particular in the chorus, with its striking, string-voiced counter-melody and those aforementioned vocal bursts. This is the kind of song that is hard to know what to make of after only a listen or two, but that seems to prompt repeated listenings.

“Replicate” is the first song made available from Fanfarlo’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled second album. The band’s debut, Reservoir, was released to much acclaim in 2009, when Balthazar was still going by his birth name of Aurell and the London-based five-piece was a sextet. The wonderful song “Harold T. Wilkins,” from that album, was featured here in March of that year. The MP3 comes via Pretty Much Amazing. Perhaps the video will help illuminate the song? You be the judge:

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