Reframe by Flicker RateRelease date: March 10, 2017
The second EP from seventeen year-old axe prodigy, Flicker Rate sees an evolution in style, sound and substance, whilst offering a brief glimpse into future offerings.
*I wrote this twice ’cause I got the wrong metadata and it was still the wrong tracklisting anyway but, this is how I heard it so, re-arrange my thoughts in your head lest the re-writes become laborious.
Even from the slow-burning ascension at the start of ‘Airspace’, it is clear that Reframe has a markedly improved production value to that of its predecessor. Where the eponymous debut glimmered through it’s lo-fi production like the sun through the trees, Reframe offers a polished, resolutely opaque sound postulating each of its sound with authoritative clarity. It screams Channel Four to me, it has this sense of quickly intensifying drama, that used to be displayed in adverts by the likes of The XX or for example, Burn My Shadow by UNKLE (with the Cult’s Ian Astbury). For me, there’s a dichotomy in this, on the one hand, this is clearly very cinematic, professional sounding music but, at the same time I wonder if it’s perhaps too safe.
I could make a fair comparison to a band like MinionTV or Russian Circles to Flicker Rate but, I think what’s more interesting is not that Bassett can play in this style, very well already but, that he can escape it and improve upon it and imprint himself upon it further. Who are the best instrumental bands today? None of them are typical post-rock bands, they peaked about a decade ago. They’re all artists influenced by post-rock making other stuff that’s hard to describe without genre hybridity and words like “bricolage”. That’s not say anything bad about this album, I’ve heard plenty of vapid, insipid, middle-aged, hipster, graphic designers trying to make watered-down post-rock and this is a lot better than most of that shit you find out there. I guess it’s kind of like art in high school or something, draw a cow, “work on the hooves”, draw a cow, “work on the smile”, draw a cow, “work on the eyes”, “work on the scenery”, draw a cow, “do it your own way”. It’s one of the most pertinent points I feel there is to make about this album, its evident potential outweighs its evident quality; hopefully, in a few years though, maybe even more like five, I’ll be writing up the first Flicker Rate LP and it’ll be a meticulously planned and crafted record refined from years of work and it’ll just sound like Spencer Bassett with suggestions of influence.
‘Reframe’ does show some interesting influences and twinges onto the rhythm of Flicker Rate’s new music and I guess it certainly feels in that sense as though the music is now more cohesively considered on this album than the debut EP which seemed to be a bit more heavily-centred on the guitar over all else. I definitely see the title track as being a fairly typical post-rock track but, with that said, it is nevertheless a well-articulated piece of music. It would likely be a lot more interesting to me had it been released half a dozen years earlier but it is played well, sounds good and segues well into the next track. ‘Spectrum’ stands out as a track with a particularly diverse chain of influences on the album; the opening of the track sounds deceptively in the arena of dance and pop music but, over the course of the track these familiar faces of post-rock, math rock and I guess, djent that reoccur throughout the album find there way into the mix.
‘Summit’ brings the album to a close tearing riffs to shreds with the serrated edge of a violently tremelo’d guitar anchoring the tension below. The track feels like some festival promotional video, flashes of crowds and dazzled listeners, head bangers and crowd surfers; like a premonition of what’s to come. My favourite part of the track is actually the breakdown in the middle, somewhat reminiscent of The XX; it arrives fairly unexpected and leaves in an equally bizarre match-up of sounds.
The main gut-reaction I get from this album is a desire to watch Flicker Rate refine and develop his sound further; this is full of potential and with the right time and dedication and nurturing or, I guess opportunity, Flicker Rate is going to produce something seriously good. And whilst that may sound underwhelming, this album is probably going to be one of the only post-rock albums worth listening to this year, not that the genre is dead but that most are flocking to it as an easy way of lazily creating boring, uninspired music. Which is why it’s important that good instrumental music is supported and developed because the terrible hordes of shit pouring into the scene in droves just needs to stop… Point is Flicker Rate has fuck tonnes of potential if he can navigate the path to actualising it.