ARTIST: In Letter Form
RELEASE DATE: 20/05/16
RECORD COMPANY: Metropolis
In the landscape of current music, it is hard for an album to be epic. It is that plain and simple… Due to the fact that technology is in evolution and the Internet opens up doors to so much music that one gets easily lost in the preverbal forest of the webs music, albums by artists tend to bend and switch from one genre to another. That, in itself, is impressive and a magnificent additive to music, but ultimately it leaves albums at times less focused on one sound or concept; thus it is hard for an album to be epic in scale and fluent in one sound. On a similar side-note, we the audience generally consider this word ‘epic’ to be associated with the likes of heavy rock/folk, the atmospheric heights of hard rock, the conceptual guitar masturbation of progressive rock and the large world of metal. Somehow though, US post-punk/coldwave band In Letter Form have broken through the ice; and have created a monster of an album without touching upon any of the aforementioned genres… Rather, on their album Fracture. Repair. Repeat they use restrain and emotion, intelligence and distance, and a lyricism to be examined over and over… They have created an epic.
There is nothing more satisfying than a well-placed, relevant, ear pleasing sample, and that is exactly what In Letter Form begin the album with, on the opening track ‘Face in The Crowd’. After this very-sample, the band break through into a fully charged soundscape of post-punk reverb. The choir-like synth that so brilliantly inhabits the album swells underneath the gigantic, Martin Dupont-styled drums; pounding and echoing to create a jarring industrial post-punk sound, courtesy of the guitar. The deep, bass guitar joins the party as well, and together the instruments somehow manage to conjure a sound reminiscent of Asylum Party, but much heavier, and much, much darker. To top the whole song off, there is the Echo and the Bunnymen style vocals that exceed into complete, shrieking darkwave screams as the vocalist hauntingly bellows the songs title before the band end the three minute assault. And after that, I wondered why In Letter Form would put the ultimate gothic wave of the darkest, most weathered post-punk music released in a little while at the albums opening; then they proved they had much more than just one song. The albums third track, ‘Wait Now’ lays off the gothic barrage and instead dives back into the strum of classic punk, and a neat alternative sound, coupled with post-punk drums; suitably more distant than on the album opener. The chorus yell ‘WAIT NOW!’ hit its peak at just before the two minute mark, when the album seeps back into a utterly fantastic cold, jangle sound and the vocals turn to ‘You’re out of control!’ before the song jumps back upon its punk pedestal.
After the eerie intermission of ‘Audio Drones’ seeps into the albums fifth track, the band tackle and present one of the greatest passages of alternative music I have heard in a quite a while. The albums fifth track, ‘Terror (Is a State of Mind)’ uses the bands synth to its absolute pinnacle, with a fantastic section of music that opens the song and injects so much emotion it exceeds and expounds genre. The lyrics that inhabit the first verse are genius, along with the drumming that goes hand-in-hand with the punky tone of the guitar. At the three minute point, the song rises to a whole other level; it features the opening riff before stepping into a psych-breakdown of wholly epic proportions; a passage of music so ripe with feeling and well written music it creates a whole other vantage point to view not only the song, not only the album, but perhaps even the entire genre. ‘High Line’ begins with a sound reminiscent of Starfish era The Church and seeps into a more pop-impinged chorus to speak about time and love, and the relationship between both. The guitar is perhaps the greatest element of the track, maintaining the post-punk element of the album strong and eventually scratching out into a synth pop styled track. ‘High Line’ adds a fantastic element of pop music to the album while simultaneously maintaining the overall sweeping sound of the albums atmosphere.
‘Edison’s Medicine’ sees the band centred on a particularly fantastic guitar riff and highlights the band genuinely intelligent cold-yielded album production and mixing. It also re-imagines and reuses the bands previous delve into sampling-led intros. Following is the atmospheric and more (perhaps sarcastically) upbeat sound of ‘111’ in which the band sing of contemplation of sin and regret, stitched together with a fantastically engineered synthwave keyboard hum. The drums, metallic and vibrant, bounce up and down, maintaining the post-punk feel, with the other instruments swing in harmony to the fantastic closing sound that sweeps the listener into the following instrumental/intro ‘Rain Prelude’. Of course, this sound eventually becomes ‘Reflecting the Rain’, that sounds like the transitional period (Goth to synth) of The Cure and whose keyboard adds an industrial-styled shoegaze element to the track. The album concludes with the eerie, electro/darkwave sound of ‘Mal de Mer’; in which In Letter Form speak directly to the listener, accompanied by a tapping drum machine and a distant soundscape. The album concludes fittingly with the ambient lines: ‘Just let go/Cause this really doesn’t matter/This really doesn’t matter’, a reflection of the songs sound with its lyrics.
It is Mister J. Steinman who is often credited with bringing the atmospheric, soaring heights of conceptually ‘epic’ music to the attention of critics and listeners alike. Steinman applied such music to hard strung, heavy and theatrical rock, including lyrics evoking magical and medieval themes; creating what a lot considered to be the ultimate ‘epic’ rock sound. However, I believe that In Letter Form have created something that deserves much greater admiration than that; they have constructed an epic album without heavy guitars, maximalist song writing, medieval themes or hard rock riffs. Instead, their beast is reserved, distant, and cold, touching and layered; a walk on the industrial side of the river. As an album, the post-punk chug of the guitar and airy sound of the synth act as a concept within themselves; for I feel that the album comes across as epic in concept as well as sound. This concept could have been contemplation, as In Letter Form mix deep universal questioning, religion and feeling together to create a lyrical concept evident in many songs. The mixing is of a high standard, the production perhaps even more so. Although I enjoyed the steel, weathered feel of the album, I believe that some may steer clear of just how far down the garden path the band go with the crunching coldwave sound, although others (especially fans of the genre) will understand exactly what the band has done on this release.
With Fracture. Repair. Repeat. In Letter Form have proven their integrity and skill in the art of music making; especially in the realms of alternative, post-punk infused coldwave. They tie their album together through beautiful, swirling soundscapes; mixing together skilled song writing, intricate tone and a groovy melding sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.