3 out of 5
Produced by: Jeremy Lemos (engineered by)
Label: Trouble In Mind
A stutter step away from FACS’ debut, Negative Houses, seems to find the band trying to morph their echoey, angular post-rock into something a bit more immediate and live sounding, reaching back across both the group’s former iteration as Disappears, as well as vocalist Brian Case’s time in 90 Day Men. Somehow, though, this blend of minimalism and post-rock hems the band in to something much less expansive than the former album. It does offer a similar sense of growth after repeated listens, but on a much smaller scale; it’s ultimately pretty fleeting, and its impactful and excellent bookends undermined by a lack of evolving on or improving upon that in the middle.
Opener Another Country is very promising, suggesting a more active and fitful version of FACS than we’d previously heard, as the group works themselves up into a relative tizzy, with Case’s vocals on the edge of a snarl. This aggression is then achieved on In Time, Noah Leger’s drums a post-rock patter supporting a head-bobbing wash of distorted bass and disparate guitar pluckings, reverbing amazingly thanks to a deep production bench of Jeremy Lemos’ engineering, John Congleton’s mix, and Jason Ward’s mastering. And then… things kinda fall off. XUXA finds a middleground between the preceding tracks, but it’s achieved via chords and tones we’ve already heard, and lacks any build up. Anti-Body has a pretty wicked bridge in the middle that harkens back to 90 Day Men anarchy, but it’s otherwise of the same middling makeup as XUXA, and Loom State is like a Disappears track, all smoky, robotic minimalism, though the album doesn’t provide the right atmosphere (and the track isn’t long enough) to make this too effective. Thankfully, Total History picks up all of these pieces and bangs them angrily together for an 8-minute fight of tension, almost like a pay-off for the more lackadaisical construction of the prior three songs.
Just as Negative Houses seemed to be appropriately named as an exploration of empty spaces, Lifelike’s album title is suggestive of its mimicry of intentions. At points, this pays off with post-rock attitude, FACS’ trio’s noises struggling impressively against some purposefully applied structure, but elsewhere it’s subject to this same structure, and allows for a rather familiar, uninspired sound to creep in.