REVIEW: The Fierce & The Dead: ‘Part 1’ EP, 2010 (“David Gilmour filtered through Slint”)

31 May

The Fierce & The Dead: ‘Part 1’

On his own, Matt Stevens is a contemporary guitar virtuoso and solo looper. Buzzing and rebounding (in the space he’s carved out somewhere between Graham Coxon, John Martyn and Robert Fripp), he shreds his way through dramatic, heavily rhythmic acoustic improvs and echo-pedal tickling. He’s not generally the kind of person who needs to beef himself up as part of a trio – for players of his kind, they’re often restrictive – but for The Fierce & The Dead he does just that, accepting those restrictions along with anything else that comes along.

For their first statement (and for nearly nineteen minutes) Stevens, Kev Feazey and Stuart Marshall pour out a continuous stream of low-key improvised space-rock – all pared down to a sparse math-rock or post-rock aesthetic, but peering backward to earlier times when it was OK to showboat a little more. The general feel is of musicians keeping a careful foot in both camps while trying to surreptitiously rub their ankles together and fray a few escape tunnels. For instance, Matt’s impressive guitar skills are still present, but slowed down and judicious. They make themselves felt in a shimmying ring against the strings; in curled and rising fragments of blues like scraps of burning paper; or in retrenchments of tempestuous noise leashed back to a distant roar.

The rhythm section, meanwhile, provides the bulk of the band’s math-rocking. Kev’s grumbling, economical bass sits close up against Stuart’s discreet, spacious drum patterns. Avoiding outright grooves in favour of careful pulses, they soften the mathematical edges, leave rhythms as suggestions. Left free to explore, Matt plays against the mechanisms. His own melodies, textures and double-backs add the human element – questioning, pushing back, and wandering loosely into various styles from minimal clanging to careful soloing to low-key jazz chording.

Over those nineteen minutes, the band takes a long lowering drive through close-linked moods. Sometimes they’re meditating, sometimes decorating; sometimes they’re passing into drones of steel-wool guitar, synthesizer-scour or glowering bass-pedal. It’s part indie-rock jam-band; and part David Gilmour cruise, filtered through Slint. It’s also by no means complete. This is just a dip in the water, a thoughtful flexing of instruments. It noodles along thoughtfully, slyly upturning post-rock aims along the way, implying and wheedling that there’s room for a old-school guitar-slinging power-trio in that strict church of ego-melt and anti-rock-posturing. Some purists are probably going to consider that reactionary treason, or at least a backward step too far. I suspect that with the prog-fanciers who’ve always migrated into post-rock zones, this is a battle well lost long ago.

Yet there are hints that The Fierce & The Dead may have more to offer than being a cautious Groundhogs for post-rock brainiacs. For example, there’s Stuart’s digression into breakbeat crunch at the halfway point, or the unsettling final minute: a coda of skirling and looping up the scale via feedback, microtones and cheap electronics, ending with an abrupt slam into silence. I’m guessing that they’re not intending to stay on cruise control forever: Part 1 is, after all, just the start of any story… But more proof and less scribbling next time, please.

The Fierce & The Dead: ‘Part 1’ EP
The Fierce & The Dead (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only EP
Released: 3rd January 2010

Get it from:
Bandcamp

The Fierce & The Dead online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Bandcamp Soundcloud

2 Responses to “REVIEW: The Fierce & The Dead: ‘Part 1’ EP, 2010 (“David Gilmour filtered through Slint”)”

  1. Dann Chinn June 7, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    As with Knifeworld, there’s a backlog of back catalogue for The Fierce & The Dead… and I’m behind with covering it. First release first, though.

    By the way, this is a decent start, but they get much better!

  2. Matt Stevens June 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Thanks loads for posting this

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