Tuesday 12 January 2016

Promise & the Monster - Feed The Fire

Article by James Grimshaw

I've had Promise & the Monster's, aka Billie Lindahl's, latest album ''Feed The Fire in my head for several weeks before the writing of this review. Its sparse, apocalyptic neo-frontier moods pervade, and quite frankly (heart on sleeve here) this album won't be leaving my playlist for a considerable period of time. Lindahl describes 'Feed The Fire' as "tales of violence and despair", a noirish vision well worth keeping in mind as the album reveals more and more of itself. There's heaven and hell in each song, performed and realised through the twisted sounds and words of a caricaturised, maddened Lindahl.

Its first, and title, track is a statement of intent as string-swell, lap steels and deep-reverbed campfire guitars comingle with Lindahl's honest-to-goodness ethereal vocals. 'Hunter' takes these ideas and sets off at a jog, with insistent drums bringing up the speed and tightening up the textures. It's with 'Time of the Season' that the album really surges forward, with horse-gallop drums and a twanged semi-spaghetti-western lead line that demands the acres of space given to it by the record.

The album boasts a heady, eclectic and wholly important mixture of folk instrumentation, Western influence, 'post-' sensibility and a vocal presence equal parts slight and searing - and odd breakdown best summed by 'Slow and Quiet', where bombastic drums provide the bedrock over which glorious, authentic swells of voice and instrument pan for gold. It is important because the resulting texture of the album at large is something intimate, intricate and yet huge: an inconceivable expanse, populated by gothic desert sounds that give you no choice but to set up camp and listen all night.

'Julingvallen' sits squarely in the middle of the record, and sees to it - with choral vocal swells of ascendant, heavenly proportions - that 'Feed The Fire' is understood as something greater than, and not beholden to, the sum of its parts. Electronic fridge-buzz follows Lindahl's multi-form siren voices to the sky and above, as the chorus breaks upward in breakneck, heart-stopping, throat-clenching style. This the album's paradise atoll, in the middle of a turbulent sea.

'Hammering The Nails' brings back that proto-country-folk-Wye-Oak Telecaster twang, and even throws in a lap-steel stab that could easily be mistaken for an echoed horse-neigh, before Lindahl's supple harmonies once again take charge. The song is a love-letter to silken soundscapes, a 4-minute journey of gliss and gloss over waves. The album's end is found in gothic-odyssey 'Fine Horseman', wherein a coven of unsettling vocal harmonies bounces over the rough waves comprised of dirty synths, brooding guitars and syncopated deep drums. Lindahl sinks into this sound, before it ebbs away to a calm sea of lap-steels and light bells - whereupon the storm that is 'Feed The Fire' is finished.

Feed The Fire is quite simply a stellar body of work; its songs inhabit a world of which its listener is happy, even lucky, to be a part. It is a collection of songs that embrace, with that perfectly-cultivated vision and perfectly-executed sonic environment, and envelope. It's an album to get lost in. You'll find me in Jullingvalen.

Promise and the Monster's website

Buy: 'Feed the Fire'

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