Fairhorns returns with an album that delivers more secrets with each listen
Last year Matt Loveridge AKA Fairhorns released FUCKUP RUSH, an album that was rammed full of psych singed Motorik. It contained more ideas concepts than most musicians could wish for in a good year, and what’s more it was incredibly listenable. Needless to say it was our album of the year. Nothing came close to the sheer scope and vision. Now he has returned with a new album COMMITTEE XIV.
The first thing that makes COMMITTEE XIV different to most conventional albums is the packaging. Instead of a standard case or gatefold packaging COMMITTEE XIV is housed in a sixteen paged book/pamphlet/zine with a map that tells the unofficial story of the Croatoa Institute and its mythology. It’s pretty cryptic and in places rabidly frenzied. But this is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Loveridge and his musical aliases. From what we are told this links all of his work in to one universe, as his different nom de plume’s either work for, or against the Croatoa Institute.
Like FUCKUP RUSH it is a dense beast that pummels the listener for its forty minute duration. And just like its predecessor its jumps from styles and motifs at a drop of a hat. Some are forgotten, whereas others return later slightly tweeked and rammed full of cheap wiz. But unlike FUCKUP RUSH it is a more challenging listen. This is down to how Loveridge envisaged us listening to it. Instead of individual tracks it’s just one forty minute soundscape. On the last page of the zine is the breakdown of COMMITTEE XIV. There are eight suites (i) the lodge : (ii) hibernator/incubtor : (iii) canzone di sangue : (iv) meteoriq thrum : (v) unseen 5th head : (vi) chemical divorce : (vii) no omms : (viii) xiv true. As there are no breaks you have to listen to the album as a whole. At first it feels slightly unnerving, as passages of sound and noise merge and curve into each other, but when you start to re-play COMMITTEE XIV, you realise it makes perfect sense to listen to it this way. The suites inadvertently pass on the information and coupled with the zine, its tells the the Croatoa Institute’s story.
(i) The Lodge opens with electrical blips, then the bass, drums and growly vocals kick in. As the song progresses demonic howls erupt from the speakers, matched only by the intensity of the music, then it clams down for a bit, and things go post-rock. Quiet guitars juxtapose with massive drums until it momentarily all kicks off, only to trail off almost immediately and the whole cycle/motif starts again. As COMMITTEE XIV continues the music get more and more fractured and aggressive. At times you feel that it’s going to collapse under its own momentum, only to right itself and go off in a totally different direction. About a quarter in it goes all ambient, a distorted telephone conversation is played while field recordings, the sound of running water, babbles underneath, then its switches to avant-garde/experimental territory before going back to the heavy post-rock motif of its beginning imagine Basil Kirchin covered by Neurosis. Half way through COMMITTEE XIV map co-ordinates are given and a female voice speaks of shredding documents. Then it all kicks off! The rest of COMMITTEE XIV carries on in this vein until it feedbacks on itself into infinity.
In a way this is the most balanced and cohesive album Loveridge has released to date. Because everything is so stark, and in places sparse, you find yourself engaging with the material a lot quicker than on his previous releases. But this is by no means an easy listen. At times it feels like Loveridge is trying to get you to switch off and give up before the end. When you make it to the end, there is no the great reveal and we aren’t told that Fairhorns is actually just an old man from Kansas behind a curtain who is really good pretending to be a mighty wizard or corrupt organisation. At times COMMITTEE XIV feel like a musical version of Channel 4’s ground breaking programme Utopia. And just like Utopia at first it’s overwhelming and terrifying, but after you get your head round it, and listen to it a few times it slowly starts to slot into place.