A producer/songwriter for hire who has worked with a growing bevy of left-of-center luminaries from Lily Allen to Marina & the Diamonds, Benjamin Garrett (aka Fryars) first gained public attention with his 2009 electronic pop-infused debut Dark Young Hearts. That album found him mixing a kind of '80s-does-'60s singer/songwriter psychedelia à la XTC with an utterly contemporary, DJ-influenced approach to modern pop. Begun in 2010 and infamously delayed due to label restructuring, Fryars' sophomore full-length album, 2014's Power, is a similarly quirky but even more ambitious concept album built around the fictional sci-fi storyline of a scientist whose invention of a fake sun brings about a nuclear winter. Working with producer Luke Smith (Depeche Mode, Foals), Garrett has crafted an album that's more contemporary in feel than Dark Young Hearts, with an arid, shimmery layer of EDM- and R&B-infused studio élan. Nonetheless, Power once again finds Fryars delivering a balance of stylistic influences, from late-'60s Baroque psychedelia ("Thing of Beauty"), to '70s electro-disco ("Cool Like Me"), to '80s new romantic pop ("Don't Make It Hard on Yourself"). Imagine something along the lines of Taking Tiger Mountain-era Brian Eno crossed with Scott 3-era Scott Walker, all produced by Giorgio Moroder and you'll get a sense of the expansive sound Fryars achieves on Power. Similarly, "Sequoia," with its poignant and summery Brian Wilson-meets-Daft Punk sound, registers as both timeless and cutting edge. Some of this disconnected, out-of-time quality comes from Garrett's tendency to veil his already introspective baritone and lilting falsetto in the warm, electric gauze of a studio filter. It's almost as if aliens kidnapped ELO's Jeff Lynne and made him record an album at the furthest reaches of space and then beam it down to Earth. All of which is to say that with Power, Fryars has made an album that is cinematic, endlessly listenable and out of this world good.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
feat: Vegetable Orchestra