The Fernweh

The Fernweh

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The members of the Fernweh spent years playing in other people's bands -- Edgar Jones, Alessi's Ark, the Zutons, James Skelly and Candie Payne -- soaking up different styles and honing their skills so that when they were ready to strike out on their own they'd be able to make a record that was fully realized. Their self-titled 2018 debut is exactly that. It mixes together psychedelia, classic British folk-rock, soundtrack music, and jangly guitar pop into a heady mixture that's always surprising, always richly crafted, and always melodic, even when things get a little murky and strange. The trio of guitarist Jamie Blackhouse, bassist/vocalist Ned Crowther, and keyboardist Austin Murphy painstakingly assembled the songs, working together and separately to concoct tracks that are stuffed to the brim with sound and mystery. Also, with guest vocalists like Rozi Plain of This Is the Kit and Alessi Laurent-Marke of Alessi's Ark, Fairport Convention was a huge inspiration as they wrote and recorded, and much like that band, the Fernweh manage to get the recipe right when cooking up their magpie sound. They never go too far in any one sonic direction; every song forges an identity that is equal parts psych-, folk-, and widescreen cinema-friendly. Some tracks, like "The Liar" or "Brightening in the West," have a chiming West Coast psychedelic feel made stronger by Blackhouse's biting guitar lines and the swirling minor-key vocal harmonies. Others feel like excerpts from a spooky, late-'60s film ("Timepiece"), quite a few songs have major autumnal themes ("Hand Me Down," "New Brighton Sigh"), and some -- like "Little Monsters," which goes from a delicate folk song to a rippling freak out and then back again, or "A Leaf Didn't Move," which sounds like a reverse photocopy of a Motown song and comes complete with a throat-ripping sax solo -- can't be so easily pinned down. That's exactly the kind of idiosyncratic character that makes for a good band, the kind that can attempt any number of styles and moods and always end up sounding like themselves. Like their label bosses the Coral do, and like a few others (King Gizzard, Thee Oh Sees) have, too, the Fernweh have done that here, and if they keep on this track, they may just end up being a band with long, weird, and always compelling discography.

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