On Dan Friel‘s Fanfare, everything goes up to eleven. The synths are distorted, the drums are crunchy, the guitars are fuzzed and the recording levels are pushed into the red. Now add horns. Thanks to members of Sunwatchers (Jeff Tobias), Grasshopper (Jesse DeRosa) and early Friel collaborator Sam Kulik, there’s an additional organic element to this release.
As one might expect, this album sounds best LOUD. Optimally, this would be played in a fast car or a video arcade. (Friel’s background in video games was recently rewarded as his sounds were used in the game Bleep Space). While enjoying the chords of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” in the opening track, balanced by trumpet, think about the excess ~ something that Whitesnake also embraced, as anyone who remembers Tawny Kitaen and a pair of Jaguars will attest. During that same period (the early 80s), hip-hop was experimenting with oversized bass, the hallmark of “Auxiliaries.” These examples underline the role of Fanfares as homage as well as celebration.
One might consider the last three Friel albums ~ 2013’s Total Folklore and 2015’s Life included ~ as a modern triptych. During this time period much was written about the compression of music into tinny forms, along with statements that the kids just didn’t care. To paraphrase a famous phrase, “I want my mp3!” By ignoring hi fidelity, Friel spat in the face of the industry. For better or worse ~ and some may call it poetic justice ~ this is the first Friel release that is digital only. That’s right, traditionalists and hipsters, no vinyl. The only way to hear this deliberately messed-up music is in a deliberately messed-up format. Friel fans likely won’t care; they’ll be too busy enjoying the happy stutters of “Beast” and the pristine v. distorted timbres of the lead track. The brass sets the mood, the freaked fuzz offers an alternative, and then the two play together in gleeful contrast. “Fanfares” may never be a wedding song, but it provides a perfect imitation of being happily hammered.
Penultimate piece “Avalanche” is a perfect pogo song. While listening, one may succumb to the urge to jump up and down and punch the air. In these angry times, such songs provide the opportunity for an essential catharsis. If Friel has given us too much, it’s only because right now, too much is just right. (Richard Allen)