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Review: What the Fog by Allred & Broderick

30 January 2021

As the new year marches on, new musical gems are already emerging, and Allred & Broderick have gotten in bright and early with the release of their sophomore L.P. just a few weeks ago on January 15. American-based musicians Peter Broderick and David Allred, both also respected solo musicians in their own rights, have teamed up for their second collaboration, ‘What the Fog’ and it is a rare delight. Clearly restless innovators, this release marks a stylistic departure from their first album, eschewing vocals for the pure immediacy of a strictly instrumental offering. 


Adapted from an eleven-hour score to the film ‘#monalisa’ interrogating the relationship between art and technology in the pre-COVID world, these potent excerpts still speak to the long-form sensibility of their original form, placing the listener in an experience of stillness that is paradoxically transportive. These seamless, imperceptible shifts are subtly moving, in a way that is only sensed in long form development and only known in spine-chilled hindsight. That the musicians were able to preserve this filmic quality in a more digestible album format is quite a feat and in no way feels lacking without its original visual counterpart. 


To the tracks themselves: we are offered eight musical journeys, some quite long and others shorter interludes. Each track feels like both a lifetime and a mere moment. The album opens with ‘The Fog Horn’ and its warm, glowing brassy tones, like sunrise on a gently rippling ocean. Here, we are introduced to the key elements of trumpet and piano, cutting through the mist of undulating sound. Whilst their character changes across the album, in particular the piano, it is these two instruments that weave a unifying thread through a web of slowly shifting sound design. 


Overall, the longer form tracks are a delight to linger with, though occasionally overstay their welcome. ‘Stasis Oasis’ lives up to its name, circling a tight centre of equilibrium, like a sonic house of mirrors with a distinct lack of obvious progression, at least on the surface. Lurking beneath though, are subtle shifts, which subliminally move the experience along, reaching a satisfying conclusion, but not a moment too soon. By contrast, shorter tracks like ‘Cloud Clearing’ and later, ‘Deep Dark’ are much more overt in their development, and advance the progression of the album with brisk stillness. 


The sound colours on ‘Sky Swamp’ are simultaneously dark and brilliant with filaments of synth floating amongst drifting piano chords, while on ‘Crystal ‘Flower’ there is a gorgeous interplay between piano and trumpet, floating amongst delicate synth that ripples out like extraterrestrial whalesong. There is a compelling intensity to these tracks, taking us to places of stillness and  weightlessness, where time ceases to exist.


The standout track, ‘Shadow Diver’ is the real magic moment of this album, and seems perfectly placed within the flow of tracks for maximum effect. Slowly but surely, we find ourselves cresting the peak of a gentle climax of sorts that sneaks up so gently, its joy is so completely unexpected in the context of the sounds from which it emerged. With an almost psychedelic feel in its swooning dreaminess, this moment so adeptly straddles a fine line between the populism of the kind of satisfying build every audiophile loves, whilst also keeping true to its more intellectual roots as music that clearly aims to avoid easy affectations. 


The album wraps up with ‘Outer Lands’ where smokey synth lingers and mingles with its own decay in a reverberant haze, setting the scene for a waltz played on a crackly, gritty old piano with its rich harmonics, dark tonal quality and deep sustain. Somewhat naive in comparison to the tracks that precede it, it is nonetheless a gentle, logical conclusion to a series of tracks that are quietly surprising and engrossing in their unfolding. 


It was particularly interesting to see the stark variation of each waveform for these pieces, with each sounding correspondingly distinct, within a broad yet cohesive sound palette. The varied styles of pianos used and the synergy that exists with the trumpet is a strong unifying force, though it is truly the subtlety of the electronic contexts into which they are placed that forms the structural appeal of this album. Indeed it is through experiencing the development from beginning to end that the effect of this album is most deeply received.

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