Fink - Perfect Darkness Album Review
Fin 'Fink' Greenall is signed to Ninja Tune, used to be a trip-hop DJ, and now crafts quavering guitar-based music, which means that all critics are mandatorily required to refer his music as 'folktronica'. Between you and me, this is a little misleading: his songs owe little to electronica, aside from the odd synthesised swish or functional, unobtrusive beat. Greenall's principal influences seem, rather, to be unadulterated folkies, the old school dreamy strummers rather than the beat-generating machine-melded new school. Those bearded reference points, all of them aged in oak casks and one hundred percent organic, include Nick Drake and, most obviously, John Martyn circa the wonderful 'Solid Air'. Martyn's rolling, blues-inflected vocals, at once dark and soothing, his drifting, circling guitar, and his fusing of blues and English folk are faithfully replicated throughout Perfect Darkness (although Greenall finds no room for piano or saxophone). It's a good replica, and if you're not familiar with the songs which have inspired Fink this album might sound revelatory, but if you've spent time with his influences you're more likely to sigh at the over-familiarity of the musical ground being covered.
Greenall has made a very stylistically focused record, only deviating from his well-worn folky path by millimetres. 'Wheels' features the most dramatic change of direction, and it isn't especially dramatic: it's the most overtly blues-influenced song on the album, a tale of a life spent travelling sung in a exaggeratedly bluesy style which ensures that it walks a fine line between homage and pastiche, and only just manages not to collapse on the wrong side of that line. The tone of the album is also static, for the most part: by default, Fink sounds relaxed and contemplative, with only the unexpectedly vicious 'Honesty' ('It's taken long enough to see your true colours/You've got so many baby, you're like a fucking rainbow') and the smouldering 'Save It For Somebody Else' manifesting as ripples in the calm water. Perhaps coincidentally, those are the record's best tracks: the latter, in particular, has an epic sweep and scope unmatched elsewhere. Both songs are well worth a few minutes of your time, but otherwise the record drifts, pleasant but unmemorable, never quite doing enough to move beyond its influences.
Fink's music has the rather passive prettiness of a derivative watercolour painting. It's confidently rendered in skilful brush strokes, and the artist succeeds in capturing a certain pastoral charm. But there's something rather dated about the style and subject matter, and you can't help feeling you've seen this done before with more panache and vivacity.