Over the last few years, there have been no shortage of indie/folk outfits that favor music seeped in antiquated narratives, composition, and instrumentation. Arcade Fire, Beirut, and the Decemberists immediately come to mind, as they propelled themselves to stratospheric heights, courtesy of the kind of epic, song fare peppered in surprisingly classical/traditional roots. If we had to wager on the next band to accomplish a similar sort of feat, we'd go all in with Fanfarlo
...hands down. Consider yourself warned.
A quick look at the band reveals an obvious obsession with the past. Searching the band's name produces origins having something to do with a lesser known, 19th century work of French symbolist Baudelaire. The band and its' principal songwriter, Simon Balthazar
, also bring a variety of past lives to light on their fantastic, debut album Reservoir
, including stories of an obscure English journalist ("Harold T. Wilkins, Or How To Wait For A Very Long Time") and an exorcist favoring, Italian Monk named Pellegrino Ernetti ("The Walls Are Coming Down"). To match their music in the live arena, the band sport buttoned-up stage-ware (well, sort of), drape their surroundings in old tattered sea-flags, and pull on a wide-variety of old instruments over the course of a performance.
Knowing all of this we ventured to Philadelphia last December to catch the band in action. Yes; we too found Balthazar to be a bit of an old soul. But this wasn't music merely meant for blowing dust off of like some forgotten antique. It's timeless and enthusiastic, traveling a definitive arc trough orchestral crests and somber falls. Not surprisingly, an eager foot stomping, handclapping kind of audience would greet and gobble it up all night long. - David Pitz
The first 16 years of my life I spent a lot of time around lakes. You seeI get quite passionate about things for a time, like reservoirs.
The passion, the obsession, the dissolution of intellectual rigour; heart and longing colliding with mind and matter, the recurrent theme of Fanfarlo. As aging instruments are brought back to life with a creaking aching beauty, a bizarre collection of characters join our midst. Each an accidental Fanfarlo metaphor - the irrational pursuit of an otherwise intellectual mind.
Howard Hughes' decent into madness "I'm A Pilot"; the delusion of Pellegrino Ernetti "The Walls Are Coming Down" and the absurd writing career of "Harold T. Wilkins", all sweep from sweet murmuring melodia to orchestral pop.
Again and again the band find ways to mirror the impotent fury of the words. Cathy Lucas (violin, keyboard, vox), Justin Finch (bass) and Amos Memon (drums) and Leon Beckenham (trumpet, keyboard) all conspire to ensure that Fanfarlo eschew a defining format. Reaching for less than obvious conclusions to musical conundrums: saws, clarinets, cellos, mandolins, ukuleles, melodicas, hands clapping and feet stomping.
There is no doubt that all of Fanfarlo are clever, bookish coves, but when they come together to make music, they function on a gut level. For a band that comes from all over frontman Simon Balthazar is himself from Gothenburg - there is that restless, furtive artistry. A keenness to avoid the constraints of home, battling with the longing of the heart, the distant locations of a burning house "Fire Escape"; a drowning village "Ghosts"; and the uneasy sensations of urban sprawl, "Luna."
Trapped and spiralling guitars, an insistently hammered piano chord, or an ominous stomp, the fervour with which they play is stirring and infectious Fanfarlo Baudelaire's fictional dancer, impossibly desirable, an inescapable object of obsession.