His Name Is Alive's fifth 4AD release, Ft. Lake, is their most complex and accomplished, pulling together the dreamy experimentalism of their early work with the poppy, soulful tendencies of Stars on E.S.P and Nice Day, and adding a few new twists. "The Waitress" adds drum machines and keyboards for a new wave sheen, while the slinky "No Hiding Place Down Her" has enough soul for a dozen Top 40 R&B singles. As on the Nice Day EP, Lovetta Pippen's voice sounds wonderful, whether she's dueting with Karin Oliver on "Everything Takes Forever" or taking center stage on the epic, Hendrix-inspired "Wish I Had a Wishing Ring." Steve King and Warren Defever's smooth, sonically rich production makes the most of the band's versatility, and Defever's guitar work sounds especially expressive on tracks like "Wishing Ring" and "Little Red Haired Girl," which shifts between bouncy rockabilly licks and noisy, neo-shoegazing leads. The retro-futuristic synth interludes, courtesy of Defever's Robot World side project, offer a nice contrast to the guitar-heavy aspects of the album. Despite the album's eclectic sound, Fort Lake's one constant is its elliptical, yet emotional songwriting; lyrics like "Answer comes from behind/I've been here all this time" from "Spirit Needs a Spirit Tool" (another of the album's highlights) are strangely poignant and resonant. "How It's Gotta Be," co-written by Defever and bassist Chad Gilchrist, has the sweet, sad feel of classic girl-group songs, while "Rock 'n' Roll Girl From Rock 'n' Roll City"'s repeated refrain of "Come and play/Don't make me wait" adds a new urgency to the band's sound. Though His Name Is Alive defy simple classification at any point in their career, Fort Lake might be the best example of their wide-reaching abilities.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares