Fragile State

The Facts and the Dreams

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    6
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The Facts and the Dreams is the full-length debut for Fragile State, which features Neil Cowley and Ben Mynott. It's a precise approach to downtempo, designed not as a narcotic stimulant, but a thoughtful relaxant. After a generic opening track that's neither here nor there, the State drops the pristine piano and plucked guitar intro of "Barney Fade." It's where the album really begins, since it's indicative of Facts' measured, intellectual approach. As the strings come in and an understated percussion track tussles in the background, "Fade" flutters between melancholia and floating on fog. The title track amplifies this vibe just a bit, offering shimmering, downtown jazz grooves over which a flute drifts. Yes, the flute might be an overused instrument in downtempo circa 2002. But it works here, matched to warm Hammond tones and a spectacular mid-song horn break. When that brass hits, the pigeons get spooked, and a glittering black Caddy emerges from an underground parking garage. "Panacea" flirts with the vintage organ tones, too, and "Seraya" extends the soundtrack quality that shades most of the corners on The Facts and the Dreams. Again, drawing on soundtrack music for inspiration is as common to chillout as Thievery Corporation is to the genre's myriad compilations. But the referential sound works for Fragile State, since the duo stresses it over the lure of same-y electronic programming -- you know, turn the beat on, kick some fazed keys and chirping vocalists. There's no vocalist on Facts. The percussion is understated throughout, too, nearly "live" sounding, and the additional presence of organ, piano, horns, and soulful bass gives The Facts and the Dreams an organic classiness that's often missing from the average downtempo release. Anyone can throw some beats and smoothness together and offer it up in a fancy-backed stereo chair. But does it make the listener start filming a B&W downtown romance in /hisher head? For many, The Facts and the Dreams just might. Recommended.

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