Fanfarlo shows evolution with ‘Let’s Go Extinct’

"Let's Go Extinct" by Fanfarlo was released Monday, Feb. 10 by the band's own New World Records in the United Kingdom.
“Let’s Go Extinct” by Fanfarlo.

Fanfarlo takes listeners on a musical and philosophical journey into the future with its third third full-length album, “Let’s Go Extinct.” The album is an adventurous leap in the time machine both back to 80s by incorporating synth melodies and into the future with progressive, futuristic themes by the London folk quartet.

Released Feb. 10 on the Fanfarlo’s own New World Records label in the United Kingdom and by The Orchard in the United States, the 10 tracks of “Let’s Go Extinct” were enjoyable and weird. I fell in love with the eclectic band after hearing the heavily trumpeted “The Walls Are Coming Down,” from its first album, “Reservoir” released in 2009. Although I didn’t find “Rooms Filled WIth Light” from 2012 until late last year, Fanfarlo has held a warm spot in my inner-ear.

The first track, “Life in the Sky,” begins with strange sounds emerging and breaking into an upbeat pop tune that is heavily submerged in psychedelic folk. I didn’t have to wait long before Leon Beckenham comes in with a trumpet, which is one of my favorite aspects of the Fanfarlo sound.

All of the band members are multi-instrumentalists, led by chief songwriter Simon Balthazar who backs up his vocals with guitar, keyboard, mandolin, saxophone and clarinetist; Cathy Lucas plays violin, keyboard, mandolin, glockenspiel, vocals and and musical saw. You can hear the latter on “Life in the Sky”. Bassist Justin Finch joins in on vocals and Beckenham also plays the keyboard, glockenspiel, melodica and vocals. Following this album, the band is joined by Valentina Magaletti on drums.

Fanfarlo (courtesy of the band).
Fanfarlo (courtesy of the band).

“All the songs we’d written seemed to deal in direct or roundabout ways with the things that the theory of evolution tries to answer: where the hell are we, and where are we going next,” said Balthazar. “The weirdness of being this thing we call a person and the double weirdness of other people. So we set about dealing with the subject matter with all the flippant playfulness and childish seriousness it deserves.”

The band specializes in a muted-folk tone that gives it a wider range both melodically and thematically. One of my favorite moments on the album is the breakdown and chorus of “Cell Song,” that is laden with violin and full of youthful exuberance.

This track is immediately followed with the beautifully arranged “Myth of Myself (A Ruse To Exploit Our Weaknesses).” It continues to build from the beginning and adds instruments along the journey until we, along with the narrator, are waiting for it to all come “tumbling down, imploding on itself.”

Songs like “A Distance” and “Landlocked” are a case study in the prominence of 80s pop sound in the european folk revival. This track and the era of wonder that was the 80s, (At least the half that I experienced,) are metaphorically similar to the album’s theme of space, time and distance. “Let’s Go Extinct” takes a long look at the past while diving into the crystal ball of the future with the stylistic impression of a copy of a copy.

“We’re the Future” stands out as among my favorites on the album. Its hopeful chorus is an emotionally propelled journey that plunges into the opaque pool of faith rather than taking a leap for mankind.

This is matched by, “The Grey and Gold,” another song that I”m fond of, that shows how this album works on many levels that are not just translated through pop music, but exposes the underlying structure that these songs are built upon.

All of these webs of creativity are tightly sandwiched between the opening and closing tracks that outline the album’s dissertation. Beginning with “Life in the Sky,” and ending with “Let’s Go Extinct,” there is a sense of how Fanfarlo is positioned in space and time relative to the rest of the universe. At times the sounds can seem futuristic but originate right here on earth. From the dust of the desert to the steam rising toward the sky; it’s all related to the slowing shifting gears of time.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, check out Fanfarlo with Lillies on Mars 8 p.m. Friday April 25 at Underground Arts in Philadelphia, Pa. See here for details and tickets.

Listen to “Let’s Go Extinct” on Spotify and iTunes.

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