Elliot Baker fumbles around the dreamy world of Fassine’s new album, Gourami, hoping to find a map.

What is it to buy an album?
It’s an acceptance of an invitation.
A contract between the artist and us, the audience. We consent to pay the artist an agreed-upon sum and, in return, we are privileged with following them into a world and story that they have created. There is nothing in the contract that says we will like what we hear.

I do NOT like this album. I am aware that this fact cannot be held as a detractor to the work.

However, I don’t think that’s my issue with Gourami. It’s that I feel Fassine do not hold up their end of the bargain. Rather than being brought INTO their world, I feel I have been brought into a museum that holds their world behind glass. The music does invite us in, but rather to observe from a distance.

As an audience member, I expect to participate. That doesn’t mean the album/film/play has to be interactive – I’m fine staying in my seat the whole time. Having said that, I still have to feel like I am a part of what’s happening.

If you are looking for an example for music that we do not participate in, call your bank during peak business hours. Climb into an old freight elevator. The indistinct music they pump through the speakers is not necessarily bad… but you’re not going to “Shazam” it. Most likely, you’ll leave and forget you ever heard it.

Fassine have declared that this album will be a departure from their previous sound in that it “[is] a focus on songs rather than soundscapes.” Perhaps it is MORE of a focus on the former, but it still sounds far closer to the latter. Most of these songs make very little sense in context to one another. The opener, Feather Jesus brings us in believing we will be treated to something in the vein of Hurts’ Wonderful Life. Six tracks later That Wave leaves us feeling like we’ve dropped into an Evanescence recording session.

I often harp on about how an album must take us on a journey – but the journey must make sense. As Roger Ebert eloquently put it: “I prefer to be amazed by motivation, not manipulation.” Fassine’s sharp juxtaposition between different sounds often leaves us with very little understanding with how they got from one to the other.

Ultimately, Gourami feels as though every member of the band had a different idea of what sound he or she wanted. Rather than compromise on one, they’ve decided to throw everything at the wall “to see what sticks”. Not much does.

 

★★☆☆☆

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