Portland Oregon's credibility as a musical hotbed of emerging talents is further enhanced by the latest offering from the North-West territories. Tu Fawning may be made up of four of the regions most respected individual musicians but this album, Hearts On Hold, marks their collaborative debut. With their influences cited as Gamelan music, The Boswell Sisters, Big Band Jazz, Jay Z and Hawaiian and with a largely folk pedigree behind them you'd probably be a little cautious of the resultant mix. Fear not, Joe Haege, Corrina Repp, Tousaint Perrault and Liza Rietz (Having been tempted out of semi musical retirement from her job as a Boutique Fashion Designer) have combined their not inconsiderable skills to produce an album of slightly twisted dark beauty. Rietz has said of the project that they are....'creating the sound of a rock band from an entirely fresh angle'. She is not wrong.
The mainstays of Hearts On Hold are the particularly individual arrangements, the wondrously tribal drum breaks and the overall quality of the songwriting. The opening notes of Multiply A House may sound like a death knell combined with the chanting of a particularly scary and isolated sect of possessed women but the moody piece perfectly eases you in to the 10 song set. Coupled with 'The Felt Sense', a song baring some resemblance to Running Up That Hill, with its looping drum rolls, the first 2 tracks do have a characteristically Portland essence. There is a definite sound here that can also be heard on Laura Viers album from last year. As the album progresses these comparisons are less obvious as a more radical and complex sound is developed by the very creative use of instrumentation and production.
'Sad Story' sets out on a more whimsical Music Hall theme with horns and drama a plenty. Rumbling bass lines sit behind jagged guitars and a high set female vocal as a hornets nest of brass and beats build to a fitting finale. The albums piece de resistance is next, 'Apples & Oranges'. With a view of the world definitely erring on the side of pessimism, glass half empty, oh so sceptical, yes I can take a cynical view, I could be slightly distrustful and Am likely to have been jaded by every last set back in life, Corrina and Joe impart a fabulous tale based solely around an unexpected arrival.......
'Apples and oranges what's the difference they're both just gonna rot,
Someone felt compelled to give but I'd just as soon they'd not.'
The mournful horn and violin accompaniment is terrific in the way it mirrors and matches the story line. A magnificently miserable tale that just keeps you engaged as you wallow in the couples harmonic paranoia.
'Just Too Much' brings back some pace to proceedings with its Vampire Weekend meets Duelling Banjos arrangement before Tu Fawning take an unexpected and exploratory venture into Portishead territory with first 'Diamond In The Forest' through 'Hand Grenade' and then onto the penultimate track 'I Know You Know.' It's all here, the dispationate and slightly demonic vocal delivery, the off set rythmn, the eerie soundscapes and the unease created within the scene for both the characters and the listeners. It's not likely to be something you'd easily tire of, but it does provide great theatre.
The sonic exploration that the band have embarked on has produced some wonderful results and although similarities with Portishead can be heard, Tu Fawning's sound is still unique. It carries with it a far greater percussive edge and benefits from the cleverly playful use of some 20's and 30's reference points, it's like The Cotton Club for a Trip-Hop generation and it's great. Joe Haege's summary... 'We're trying to weave a fabric that is a little more dense, which some will undoubtedly find unnerving. For others, though, ourselves included, it seems to be the last oasis for searching out that emotional high that music can give you.'