Frank’s Daughter | The Sound Of A Heart Unravelling
by Lee Adcock
For many weeks now, we’ve been mystified by the haunted vocals and introspective electronica of enigmatic duo Frank’s Daughter. When I first heard their single a few weeks back, I confessed that I wasn’t too sure what to expect of the upcoming LP. “Playground 71” suggested a twitchy, inverted angst buried within layers of subdued dreamscapes, while “Best Glow” offered a restrained, intimate lament that dragged me steadily across the carpet before dumping me down a hidden trap door. As it turns out, The Sound Of A Heart Unravelling is indeed a startling release, that reaches beyond its apparent Radiohead leanings to an even more insular, ever-shifting atmosphere. Now, yes – melancholy is the overarching tone. However, the nuances of each track, the angle to each sorrow, the subtle mingling of elements and styles, remain fresh and intriguing with each track.
Consider, for instance, “Fall, Fully, Backwards”. This was Frank and Arthur’s first single, before even Playground 71 or Best Glow, and the world’s first glimpse of their brooding, but sharply defined sound. Its shuffling beat evoked some sort of more paranoid trip hop, while the low, pulsing bass colored the tune in a new post-punk gloom; the eerily Thom York-ish vocals ascended to chilling heights, and ethereal synths floated in and out. A fascinating debut, and memorable enough to stir up listeners’ curiosity – but Frank’s Daughter have overhauled the track, extending its winding intrigue by nearly an entire minute. The commonplace electric bass is swapped out for a downbeat stand-up bass, and an echoing, popping sound bubbles in the background. A sprinkling of vibraphone at key moments add glimpses of light, while electric strings are wrenched into violent yelps in the refrains. All this – plus the removal of the synth glazes – attests to the duo’s restless attention to detail and subtly shifting style.
The album progresses in a series of stops and starts, from the overwhelmingly intimate to dynamic and detailed. “We Were Waves Once”, the opener, is the one of those stops, composed of little more than a fluid reversed guitar, particles of icy synths, and Frank’s vocals. Now, I wouldn’t normally endorse placing a delicate track like this up front, but “We Were Waves Once” is brief enough to keep first-time listeners aroused, and segues nicely into the second number, “Gravity in Glass”. This latter track is perhaps the proper intro – though led in by lightly struck chimes and a gentle acoustic strum, dexterous drums and a deep, humming bass lend a refined edge. Meanwhile, we hear the title of the album crooned in hushed pauses, and .
“Best Glow” and “Playground 71” remain unchanged since the single, although they’ve now been set in reverse order – which is fine, because the latter complements the next track, “Larvik”, with its churning, spastic beats. Here, too, there’s an interplay between organic drums and generated rhythms – but, where the previous track comes off as vital and ebbing, this one, though no less atmospheric or affecting, sounds somewhat more mechanized, artificial – and perhaps that’s intentional. I wouldn’t know. From this point, however, “Ugly Water” shatters that sterilized atmosphere with blazing, discordant guitars – rather similar to My Bloody Valentine’s “You Made Me Realize”, on reflection – and fevered, visceral vocals, the most lucid on the album: “I want to drag your body / down to the bottom of the sea”. This relentless attack of both words and riffs lets up on breathless pauses, in which guitars flow like liquid and whine sweetly, before blasting with renewed vigor and rage to the finish.
After the vitality and raw energy of “Ugly Water”, “Song for the Witches” sounds dismally dejected and empty – but it’s a knock-out beauty, albeit achingly so. “Peace, Sleep, Goodnight”, nevertheless, is a suitable closer. After so much strife, loss, and somber intrigue, the strings here gently sway like windchimes to a rolling beat. It’s a becalming, yet mystifying effect, one that washes out all the trauma or heartache from before and ends the album with a cleansed, mellow vibe.
Phew. So this was perhaps a lengthy review for an LP with a rather average length. But The Sound of a Heart Unravelling demands that sort of attention for its genius to be unearthed. Frank’s Daughter have demonstrated here an incredibly artistic approach to songcraft, borne from emotion so genuine that it’s essentially tangible. With tracks like “We Were Wave Once”, “Best Glow”, and “Song to the Witch”, it’s also a private record, full of dark and secret hiding places that you’d suspect no one to ever find you in. Though not the simplest or easiest of LPs to sink into, The Sound of a Heart Unravelling certainly won’t disappoint.
The Sound Of A Heart Unravelling is released on July 1st. Buy it here.