Sometimes stillness and silence speak louder than a 10,000 W air raid siren. Space, absence, vacuity, can even be essential to the proper function of an object. A room without doors and windows is just a concrete block. This is an apt metaphor for Nonbeliever's music - its abstract beauty and mysterious reserve makes Manchester, UK musician Stephen Fairbank's sounds glow like neon through a fog bank, or a greyed rainbow. Its softness and subdued nature is bolder than 1000 pop records with perfectly executed press cycles.
A Model Of Modern Influence is both a continuation and a departure from Nonbeliever's outstanding debut, Red Flags (which I also reviewed and I am a huge and passionate fan of). Although I haven't heard it in a while, I recall Red Flags being more in the post-rock camp, being more prone to extended moody tonal reveries. There's a bit more of a twang and a bite to A Model Of Modern Influence, as well as a cavernous reverbed garage stomp, as in the case of "Becoming A Commodity" and "Witches," respectively. It's the perfect music for slow dancing by red light, draped in fog or for wandering lost and lonely streets.
Nonbeliever manages to sound both warm and emotional, while being chilly and distant, simultaneously. Perhaps there's something in Manchester's damp air that lends itself to such emotional distance (I'm from Chicago originally, and this is certainly the case with that city's icy knives), as there is a fleeting feeling that brings to mind the cerebral quality of bands like Joy Division and The Smiths. In the case of Nonbeliever, this reserve is filtered through a pallet of gauzy reverbed garage rock and indie pop, as was popular a few years ago with bands like The Vivian Girls and the Dum Dum Girls. With a lot of that blog rock, it seemed like the reverb was a way to back mask a lack of talent or anything distinctive to say.
With Nonbeliever, it's more of a poetic cast, a romantic reverie, a way of looking at the world. It also lends an air of mystery to Fairbank's music. Cloudbanks of echoes and reverbed guitars obscure the entire proceedings, letting Fairbank's personal ruminations on death, hope, anxiety, love, murder, ambition and austerity to occasionally break through, like the morning sun burning through the morning fog.
As with Red Flags, Fairbanks recorded every aspect of A Model Of Modern Influences himself, at home in his Manchester apartment, playing every instrument, "and almost going bankrupt in the process." It is clear, although he won't shout it in your face, that this is an intense labor of love. And while it may be a minor miracle for a musician to ever earn a dime off of their music, let alone make a living. And yet, Stephen Fairbanks really deserves to, I firmly believe that. An excellent guitar player, a warm and pleasant voice, poetic lyrics that are still relatable, quality drum programming and a quite admirable engineer, to boot. Stephen Fairbanks does it all. Better than most. Repay his quality in kind with your undivided attention and vocal support!
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