The sound of Fold is compelling, while its ethos is worth celebrating: “live trip-hop with speech samples conveying truth & positive messages”. Past samples have included speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter. A large portion of the profits support justice and sustainable living. The band practices what it preaches, and for this it is to be congratulated.
The combination of speech samples and dance beats caught the attention of Public Service Broadcasting, which led to Fold’s superlative remix of “Theme from PSB” earlier this year. Their follow-up is available in two versions, instrumental and vocal, and each has something to recommend it.
The incorporation of Mr. Gee’s poetry is done so smoothly that it fools the ear. The cadence of poetry is greater than that of speech, and Mr. Gee makes Fold sound like a band with a vocalist. It comes as a surprise to learn that the songs were folded around the generous samples, then gently stuttered and echoed. The resulting sound is reminiscent of Aim’s Cold Water Music: precise, confident and chilled. The title track benefits from its single-word “chorus” and looped horns; “A Victim’s Mentality” rides an orchestral loop to glory. The final 58 seconds allow the listener to hear the instrumental backdrop, and one longs to hear more; in this case, the presence of the alternative version is a treat. In terms of subject matter, most people can relate in some way to the concept of salvation, but fewer with a victim’s mentality (even if it’s not their own). This exposes the entire argument about lyrical inclusion; it’s all good until someone can’t relate. Conversely, when someone can relate (or empathize), that person experiences the personal sublime.
The highlight of the EP – and Fold’s finest track to date – is “Passing Strangers”, which also serves as a vocal/instrumental case study. In this selection, two types of vocals are present: Mr. Gee’s spoken word and a sampled choir. The instrumental includes only the sampled choir. And yet, because the words of the choir are difficult to distinguish, the track enters Fold into the realm occupied by Lisa Gerrard, Sigur Rós and others who use ancient or invented languages so as not to distract listeners. The vocal version of “Passing Strangers” is distracting, despite laudable intentions, thanks to dual references to cleaning toilets. Mr. Gee’s words are too much of a contrast in this context, and as a result the instrumental version is preferred. While listening, one’s mind is now free to wander: to imagine, to hope, to dream. No longer confined to a single subject, the song sprouts wings. The caged bird stops singing about the cage, and imagines the sky. (Richard Allen)