It’s not the only way to judge a horror movie, but if my palms aren’t sweaty at some point during the action, then it’s failed to some extent. It’s rarely the gory bits that do it, more the slow build-up that winds the tension, the early stages of the film where a decent director will keep as much hidden as possible; the suggestion of terror being stronger than the thing itself. Top of my list as these things go is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining which I watched one sunny afternoon and still had me gnawing my fingernails and unable to pick items up due to the perspiration on my palms.
It’s another sunny afternoon as I’m listening to Witxes‘ new album and the music is having a similar effect on me; the birds may be chirruping outside, the smell of barbecues will soon be filtering through open windows, children are no doubt splashing in paddling pools and yet, thanks to the soundtrack provided by A Fabric of Beliefs I am wracked with doubt and uncertainty; the outside is a threatening place where fire could suddenly flare up, out of control; a child could slip in the pool and drown; a bird might fly in the open windows and become trapped, possibly attacking the human inside… Irrational notions – probably – but ones that feel all too real when listening to long passages of this album.
This is a darker, more claustrophobic album than its predecessor; the drones and textures feel more oppressive, the jazz elements sound like the music played in the elevator descending to hell. The songs are more fractured, in a way; elements fall out of tracks and creep back in elsewhere, there are sudden, unpredictable pauses, a drummer flurries away with his brushes but there’s nobody else playing with him. Even the brief moments when the tension eases – such as the handclaps on “The Weavers” – have sinister undercurrents; they aren’t the claps of joy and release, but sound like forced rhythm practice in a heavily-disciplined environment. Ten tracks of this is leavened by “The Words” where Maxime Vavasseur grabs his guitar and sits down in front of the microphone. It is a tentative work, threatening to collapse at any moment; the lyrics tie the track titles together to the extent that the word ‘concept’ might be used to describe the album; then there’s proper release in the closing “The Moonlight Passage”, where the choral synth seems to lift us from this sphere of existence to another level.
A Fabric of Beliefs is a brilliantly put together album, with the closing tracks somehow erasing the sense of fear and paranoia that is prevalent in the previous 45 minutes or so and making it a record that you’d want to play again straight-away. It is a mark of the confidence and skill of Witxes that he is able to produce a sequence of darkly compelling pieces, and then lighten the mood with equal conviction. I wrote that his previous album was magnificent – this is better. Time to put the superlatives to one side – you need this record. (Jeremy Bye)