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Fontanelle Style Drift Review

Album. Released 4 November 2002.  

BBC Review

Second album from instrumental post rock jazz funk electronica outfit Fontanelle.

Peter Marsh 2002

The second album from Portland based quintet Fontanelle is aptly named; their first album had critics scratching their heads searching for some way to describe their instrumental meanderings, and thisone's likely to do the same.

So here goes... Style Drift is a blend of plastic funk, improvisation and textural exploration, dominated by soft, occasionally cheesy analogue keyboards laid over slippery live grooves and spiced with bursts of propulsive guitar riffs. It's attractive music, with the massed keyboards occasionally recalling the warm bubbling electric pianos of Keith Jarrett or Herbie Hancock with Miles Davis, the pastel drift of Cluster's Hans Joachim Roedelius' solo work or even Robert Wyatt's "The End of an Ear" .

Even when more abrasive digital sounding textures are employed, there's a muted, organic quality to them (best heard on the mournful "James Going"). Though Fontanelle can get funky (in a repressed post-rock kind of way), there's a looseness to the playing which veers between being engaging and frustrating. Some of it's just messy ("Red Light, Green Light") and suffers from a lack of commitment; they hit a groove then seem unwilling or unable to take it anywhere much.

The problem is that the band (save perhaps drummer Mat Morgan) don't have the chops to carry off any extended improvisation; but there remains an intriguing trade off between note playing and dubby, spacey soundscaping which at its best makes Style Drift a seductive, transporting proposition. It's almost as if Fontanelle are attempting to play something like Bitches Brew, but much as A Certain Ratio and the Pop Group (who tried the same thing with Brownian Funk as their template) they're failing and in the process discovering something precious of their own. Worth a listen.

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