To find yourself amongst the elite, you must thrive as a minority. The majority may rule, but the mainstream is always diluted and often in the wrong. Poor, Poor Grendel is a fine attempt at musical segregation and isolation, treading in the unique footsteps of its heroes into the mysterious wilds they discovered and which they now daub with colour and illumination; a wilderness first exposed by The Velvet Underground and inhabited by My Bloody Valentine.
Fairewell, a solo project which originated in Sheffield but now lies in London, spares us from laborious dub influences and ubiquitous chillwave tropical beats now synonymous with so-lo-fi from the capital, instead looking away from what is fashionable and creating something with fragile beauty. Not exactly one for the NME Cool List 2011, but this is similar territory to where M83 and Caribou began.
However, Poor, Poor Grendel isn’t incomprehensible, impenetrable guitar guff. ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ is the poppiest moment on the album, akin to the bubble-gum inflected nu-gaze of bands like The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart; perky 80s synths, hazy guitar fuzz in the background and downbeat (yet confident) vocal melodies. ‘Others Of Us’ shimmers like psychedelic sunshine with a ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ drumbeat, buoyant synths and woozy vocals giving the album’s first standout track a distinctly Andorra-era Caribou vibe.
Where some tracks standout for their inventiveness and yearning for originality (third track in, ‘Wild Meadow/I’ve Been Locked Away’ is an 11-minute Icelandic opus), others fail to live up to the promise of its own high standards. ‘Sunday Towns’, perched on the end of the album, doesn’t deliver the kind of ambitious end you really hoped for. Perhaps that’s part of the magic, and it is a noticeable rise in cheerfulness at the end of a generally brooding record, however, the song itself never manages to grab your attention; just more synths and deadpan vocals. An despite the first track, ‘Grendel (Apocalyptic Visions)’, introducing the album in grandiose soundscape fashion, it really sounds like that viral version of Justin Bieber’s ‘U Smile’ slowed down by 800%; 3 points for ambience, minus 5 points for Bieber connotations.
You must praise Fairewell for this album, despite sounding very similar to its own musical influences it stands out as a UK release. Neither twee nor artsy, ostentatious or unassuming, Poor, Poor Grendel looks both back and forward; scouring its own musical identity by emulating its heroes and standing out from its contemporaries