Foundry Field Recordings

Fallout Stations

(Emergency Umbrella; 2007)

By Chet Betz | 3 November 2007

Billed as an extension of last year's Prompts/Miscues, Foundry Field Recordings' impressive debut LP from last year, Fallout Stations brings back the sweeping surveys of tomorrow's dystopia through the fuzzy looking glass of today's anthemic indie-pop. The productions are simple in technique but large in effect, the hooks are sharp and bright, and the band very aware of their strengths. It satisfies much of what one might hope for from a companion EP, and it's even got a Pixies cover where they let the drummer sing (which is about as EP as EP gets, right?).

Foundry's dabblings with melodic ambience are more assured here than before, opener and title-bearer "Fallout Stations" picking up where Prompts/Miscues faded out into a collage of noise. Shrill key notes and fuzz bass introduce a fully rendered song of what was just a sub-demo snippet buried in the last album's crumbling denouement, and now even the mood-setting rings with more depth and resolve. The stroke of inspiration in an otherwise straightforward cover of "Caribou" is the Eluvium-worthy outro that casts a pallid hue over the invective that preceded it; the closing functions like a realization of the "lament" that Black Francis wrote about back in verse one. It's this sort of blunt ingenuity that allows the Foundry Field Recordings to integrate a classic into their own schema without actually fucking with it. And it's just one of the pre-coded and interlocked juxtapositions that give this band's music its ambiguity.

On the title track Billy Schuh sings what reads like Logan's Run escape plans with the tone of someone casually scheduling a lover's tryst. A device both clever and natural, the music eases along calmly, rightly trusting in the chorus melody to embed its words. "Buy/Sell/Trade" is an upbeat dive into corporate lethargy, Schuh positively beaming as he resigns himself: "I'm over the top / but I'm underpaid / and that's okay for now / I'll give it a shot / But I know I'll cave / I know I'll cave somehow."

I daren't be narcissistic enough to think the band was taking notes back when I called the LP version of "Broken Strings" maudlin and obvious, but this new rendition is an improvement that appeases most of my criticisms, the tone darkened and some strong lead guitar work cutting through the airiness of the previous incarnation. While still my least favorite track present, it's probably the biggest indicator of the band's growth for the better; at the same time that they're paying more attention to the production, they're honing the concepts of their songwriting. "Transistor Kids" closes like a declaration and speaks volumes about its makers. In its first act it's a melancholy MIDI-orchestration, in its second it's a jangly ode to its means and the search for its ideal ("those electric harmonies"), and in its third it's epic guitars spiraling up into the post-apocalyptic sky, fulfilling the dramatic arc in a way that's pretty damn befitting. As they fastidiously weave together parallel and perpendicular threads of theme and sound, the Foundry Field Recordings are beginning to display a grasp of their craft that exceeds most of the rest of the indie pop consortium. They might not yet be driven and experienced enough to hit brilliance, but at least that's where they're aiming.