Album Review: Soft Fangs – Fractures

The latest release from dark pop artist Soft Fangs – the pseudonym of John Lutkevich – was produced with help from Bradford Krieger and Chaimes Parker (Big Nice Studio).

The album displays obvious inspiration from Sparklehorse and Elliott Smith, although Lutkevich also cites a much wider range of musical and literary influences, including The Beach Boys and Robert Creeley. Recorded over just three days during a snowstorm where he ‘never stopped playing’, Fractures is a compilation of songs that weave together fragments of Lutkevich’s writings from the previous year.

The themes of the album mirror its title, with different and fractured thoughts explored in every song, from the enduring ache of being overworked in a capitalist world in ‘Honey Colony’, to the inevitable loneliness that ensures the breakdown of a romantic relationship in ‘Mistress’, to anti-establishment sentiments in ‘No Cops’.

The latter paints typically authoritative figures, such as the police, as sniffing dogs dressed in blue, whilst the track  ‘Jordan Jackson Elementary’, where Lutkevich sings  that the only lessons he ever learnt in school were ‘how to turn down your voice’ and to ‘cheat so you never lose’, alongside a pained, dissonant echo.

Though less obviously coherent than his previous LP The Light, the motif of fragmented emotional responses and thoughts renders Soft Fangs’ latest release an honest and impressive insight into the musings and perceptions of a musician as he or she wanders through life in search of art.

Ironically, Lutkevich describes his pseudonym as representing  sentimental, rather than any titular value, which translates as: ‘quiet music with a bite’. Fractures most definitely lives up to this definition. It transitions from gentle, intertwining, plucked guitar melodies, trailing drum beats, and husky vocals, to a frantic plethora of amplified and distorted guitars, feedback, synth, and crashing cymbals – both between and within tracks.

The winning tracks appear at either end of this spectrum. ‘Honey Colony’, for example, offers a steady, relaxed beat, with gently-repeating guitar riffs, and a lingering poignancy that haunts as the track slowly fades out around the breathy murmur that concludes the track: ‘I’ve been trapped inside my hive, barely alive, working for a queen who I’ll never get to see’. Conversely, ‘No Cops’ enters with heavy feedback, distorted guitar, oscillating synth, and unapologetic lyrics, injecting an explosive feast of sounds and effects into the album.

The fragmented, fractured and unpredictable nature of Fractures, both lyrically and instrumentally, is what will ignite the interest of the listener throughout, and what will cause its potentially major success. A riveting auditory exhibition of the thoughts and observations that make us human.

Bethan Ryder

 

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