9 Jun 2023

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Fear Up Harsh - Album Review: Fear Up Harsh (III)

19 Oct 2022 // A review by Steve Shyu
It’s been described before here on Muzic.net.nz that Fear Up Harsh are “enigmatic works of cinematic wonder, not always appreciated, understood, or even known by the unfeeling majority”. Upon reading this, I knew I wasn’t in on the sort of album I was used to reviewing. Alas, I was ready to venture in without any pre-emptive stakes.

Straight away, with opening tracks The New Eve and Revolution by Night, you knew this was not a record with radio singles to speak of. Lots of repeated rhythms, samples and electronic riffs. But with any release, there is always value to be discovered.

As earlier reviews of earlier albums have stated, the tracks are extremely cinematic; this particular release is no different. There’s the eerie and enigmatic Lie Still, sounding like the score to a horror film or a spy-thriller TV serial. The pulsing bass provides an air of mystique, while the keyboard chords provide a sense of foreboding and intrigue. In a theatre of one’s mind, this could be set to a scene where the central character is in hiding, while the villain prowls. Truly cinematic stuff. Perhaps scoring instrumental accompaniments could be in the artists’ future?

Given the title of Seventeen Spices, there isn’t anything to show that this track wasn’t inspired by a dream of some new and unreleased KFC recipe chicken. Instead, with the bass drones, the jazzy, fluttering flute notes, there is every possibility the aforementioned seventeen spices are really psychedelic substances!

Remington Blues probably features as the most energetic on the record, if there was a metric for it. There’s a mid-tempo, lightly-industrial beat, with the metallic aspects further driven by sampled percussions.

Seemingly inspired by some fever dream might have, Parade of Faces makes for an arduous, twelve-minute long journey through a spaced-out soundscape. Featuring sustained keyboard chords, punctuated by light sizzling effects, and whispered utterances one might do while talking in their sleep.

The album is deeply experimental, and one that certainly is hard to categorise any further than instrumental and avant-garde. Parallels could be drawn with the dark-ambience albums Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails; no overt melodies, certainly no hooks, and somewhat limited on dynamics. At the duo’s admissions of improvisations, some tracks feel a bit more ad hoc than others. Temple Garden and Blind Power indeed felt very fleeting and open-ended.

In the world of atmospheric music, there is a hard-to-explain balance between simplicity and complexity. On one hand, there are plenty of layers of sound, whilst not complicated individually, there is some chemistry between the layers, all contributing to either texture or tension. A key is determined upon, then additional sound effects and instruments are applied on top - Definitely very much in the streams of nuanced cinematic music.

For those interested in soundscapes, outside-the-box and experimental music, this is perhaps one you’ll wish to stop by and check out. This is probably best enjoyed with the volume up, curtains shut, incense burning, and eyes closed. And hitting repeat a few times, as I did, to find deeper meaning to the blending of sounds.

At times, less is more. But in this case, less structure and more aural complexity seems to be the name of the game.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Fear Up Harsh

Fear Up Harsh is Michael Ferriss and Jeffrey Gane (with occasional guests).
Their music is electronic/acoustic improvisations combining polyrhythms of electronic pulses with the acoustic percussion, creating an organic blend of unique sounds with a touch of theatrics born out of Jeff's acting work.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Fear Up Harsh


Fear Up Harsh (iii)
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Fear Up Harsh (II)
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Fear Up Harsh
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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