MUSIC: Album Review: Fictionist, Lasting Echo

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

I must first say it’s wonderful that we do, on occasion, find some diversity in the indie folk-laden market we call the Provo music scene.  This particular occasion is brought to you by Fictionist.

If you have not yet heard of Fictionist and have lived or been going to school in Provo for more than six months, you’ve probably been covering your eyes and your ears, because they’re everywhere. Walk to campus, I guarantee you’ll see at least three of their posters. Maybe on your way back you’ll catch some of the sidewalk chalk at the intersections advertising for their upcoming shows. And if you’ve been reading The Daily Universe at all in the past while, you’ll have read their name in various articles and perhaps taken a gander at their photo on the front page.  They’ve developed a knack for getting the word out, and it’s obvious that it works — their local shows often have an attendance in the hundreds.

For those that have not been under a rock lately, you’ll have already taken note of the psychedelic posters plastered on telephone poles and street lights all around and why they’re up. Fictionist’s new full-length album, Lasting Echo, was recently officially released. But if you want to know what you’re getting into, look no further. Welcome to Fictionist’s Lasting Echo, the official Rhombus review.

Minimalist. Simple. Superficial. Such words could never apply to a description of this album, evident even within the first 30 seconds of sound. “Always,” the album’s first track, is nothing short of an out-of-body vacation through space and beyond, with its intricately layered guitar work and complex rhythms. There is one part where the song arrives at a familiar four-beat pattern, but that quickly goes away and you are left swimming in the enormity that is the world — or lack of world — that Fictionist creates for you. It is out there you will stay for the entirety of the album.

Things calm down with the next track, “Human Wings,” which has a radio-ready feel due to its easy-listening quality, letting the listener stand on some solid ground and catch their breath. Continuing onward you run into effect-heavy songs such as “Blue-Eyed Universe” (my least favorite of the ten), “Time to Time,” “Deeper and Deeper,” and “Fire Don’t Set You Free.” These songs contain the signature sound Fictionist aims for, and it is doubtful anyone but them could ever figure out how to recreate it. (If you’ve been to one of their live shows, you know how crowded it looks once all six of them, their instruments, and their oodles of effects pedals are on stage.) Mixed in between these songs are gems such as “Sunshine of a Shell” and “Strangers in the Dark,” which both offer ballad-like qualities with the way they build up to a worthy climax.

Throughout the album are a few new tricks Fictionist has put into action.  One difference fans will quickly realize when comparing Lasting Echo to the band’s first album Invisible Hand is lead singer Stuart Maxfield’s vocals; there is a ton more passion, and a more liberal use of dynamics such as volume and pitch give this album a surprising twist. You may also notice Fictionist seem to have discovered what Coldplay learned long ago — the organ is a very handy tool.  Though not present in every song, it’s obvious they’ve taken tips from albums like X&Y, where the organ is utilized like a basecoat for an elaborate painting.

The lyrics match the complexity of the music and remind me an awful lot of the poetry of Carl Sandburg, if not a tad more ambiguous. And though Fictionist is not the first place I would think to find a love song, few songwriters exist that can produce such elegant wording as “If I ever saw a reflection of God, it was when you saved me from all the things I was.”

My major complaint with this album is its lack of punch. Overall the album is strong, but there is no one song that feels solid enough to hold up on its own, like “Tightrope Hill” was for Invisible Hand. There are some bands that are pushing so hard for the success of their singles that their album as a whole comes short; this album seems to have the opposite issue. There are certainly tracks I enjoy and I appreciate the musicianship in all of them, but after finishing the album there are no hooks that ring out in my mind, nothing that has stuck.

Ultimately I give Lasting Echo a 7.5 out of 10 — it failed to strike me down with excitement and wonder, but it did not disappoint in the least. I likely will appreciate it more and more as I continue listening and unwrapping the many layers.

“But,” as our friend LeVar Burton says in our favorite educational television show, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Go to one of their local shows and see for yourself. If you find any money in your pocket, you’ll probably come home with their CD.

Scott Manning is a music correspondent for Rhombus.

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