San Francisco’s Father Howl have taken us back to the beach, back into surf’s failing light, and they’ve injected the style with some fun, fun, fun! Their instrumentals ride the rocky currents, wavering between slow, melodic jams, crystal clear passages and full-on dynamic assaults that hit you like a tidal surge.
There are calmer moments amidst the clean, reverb-wet electric guitars, the steady basslines and the thwack of the drums, but even these moments can vanish into the depths. Like the lost city of Atlantis, the blazing distortion pummels the music into the sea as if it were punishment for its wayward enthusiasm and beach party-led lifestyle.
You can hear the classic surf vibe inside, and it’s clear that Father Howl have a deep love for, and understanding of, the style. The rapid chromatic descent on a low string (voicing the sound of a crashing wave) and the steady yet speedy rhythm of the drums bring back the golden memories of surf in its original incarnation. But the music has aged, matured, and this is evident in the music. The shore isn’t innocent any more.
“It Is The Light That Separates Us” and “The Haunted Sea” are both dark and slightly eerie, like a voyage to the bottom of the sea. This undersea world is also filled with wonder, though. As listeners, we are viewing the spectacle from the safety of our speakers, but Father Howl are the ones who have to take us there. As such, father howl is brave, facing the present day full-on, but with a beloved memory of the past still seeping through. The fluid dive-bomb of the tremolo arm comes face to face with light electronic moments, and the result is a very modern surf sound. Clearer melodies repeat over a moving bass note, bringing some beautiful progressive moments that are serene for a time…at least until a speedboat races by, slicing foam and water into the air and disturbing the placid relaxation with its growling, overdriven engine. Father Howl have a thoughtful side, too. Their instrumentals have a beautiful balance, progressing at a steady pace, which is a sign of great musicianship. They keep the music interesting and it’s easy to return again and again. Each listen reveals something new, some sunken tone or melody rippling the surface like a grey, glistening fin.
When music is as good as this, the beach sure does look inviting, even in late Fall. At this time of year (and the older years of surf’s life), you’ll need to bring a jacket to compensate for the cooler mood as you take a dip into surf’s new sound. (James Catchpole)