From the banks of a brook betwixt sand stone cottages on the outskirts of Rockingham Forest, somewhere between Corby and Peterborough, is an unlikely setting for a hotbed of potent pop talent. Kings Cliffe in Northamptonshire is more likely to be frequented by farmers and market goers, and until recently, probably had less electronic musical equipment per head of population than most of the developed world. Little matter. The four members that make up Fenech-Soler are well on their way to putting their hometown on the map for far different reasons than it has been used to over the last 800 years or so.
Since they were created 4 years ago the band have been receiving ever more public attention and critical acclaim for their blend of pulsating electro-pop. Ross, Ben, Daniel and Andrew may hail from the Midlands but their hearts and minds are more suited to New York dance floors or the LED festival. With a best New Band Of The Day, Radio 1 Weekend Anthem and Greg James Record Of The Week already in the bag, pre-album release, the Fenech-Soler star is definitely in the ascension. Working with Groove Armada and, earlier this year, Marina & the Diamonds, for the bands remix of Hollywood, has also served to broaden the bands credibility and exposure.
The eponymous debut album on B-Unique Records is a blast of catchy beats and hooks delivered with a decidedly danceable vibe running throughout. The opener Battlefields catapults the 10 piece set from a standing start to break beat frenzy in no time at all. The choral harmonies and fuzzy electro synth notes carpet the score with a semi-sinister mood to accompany the dual vocal harmonies. The recent single, 'Lies', released 20th September, is up next. It's decidedly fresher, more radio friendly than its predecessor, and has a feel good character to it that puts it somewhere between Heaven 17 and Vampire Weekend. The Friendly Fires and Scissor Sisters comparisons are born out but be in no doubt Fenech-Soler have their own sense of identity and direction and have a fantastic ear for a proper pop tune fit to fill any dance floor.
Upon hearing the opening 22 seconds of Golden Sun you may be forgiven for thinking it is some sort of James Bond vs Test Match Special face off until more high pitched vocals kick-in paired against deep and slightly dirty electro beats. With some seismic bass riffs under pining the nifty keys it veers from the heat of the clubs to the euphoric sound of the summer. Stop & Stare, their May release that saw the band receive their most public attention to date, showcases a more subtle tendency, with a softer beat, less punishing bass line and unapologetically Pop arrangement it has you hooked on the rhythm from the off.
The Great Unknown sees Fenech-Soler take some keyboard queues from our Gaelic cousins Air as they slow the pace for a more reflective number. Demons, as the title suggests, carries on the darker theme with its pulsating synth notes and troubled torment..... 'I need to get out before it starts, I can feel it and I know it's not the same, I'm the one, you're the drug to ease my pain, I was wondering if I you'll ever see me again.' This is Fenech-Soler as an Indie guitar band with synths rather than an Indie synth band with guitars!
LA Love brings the bounce and vitality back for more floor filling electro beats that Vince Clarke would be happy to put his name to. The Don't Go style infectious synth key notes are gloriously retrospective and ever so slightly kitsch, but in the best way possible. Probably the best vocal on the album comes with the piano lead, more contemplative, Stone Bridge. The switch to a more cinematic soundscape 2/3rds of the way through also works with ease and highlights the bands range.
Contender, and finally Walk Alone, bring the self titled debut home in a very accomplished style. More synth heavy electronics work as the platform to skipping beats and over layered dueted vocals on Contender whilst Walk Alone laments the break down in a relationship set to some of the sets more conventionally percussive arrangements.
Fenech-Soler by Fenech-Soler deserves to be massive. It's not overly clever. It's not trying to be something it can't. It works through the accomplished songwriting and arrangement of the protagonists and above all it deserves to be heard because there are some cracking pop tunes on here that are begging to be let loose on the dance floor.