Early & Often – Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense (EP)

Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense coverBoth shoehaze and post-rock can be funny things. At times they can strike you with tremendous force, with alternately minimalist or convoluted compositions somehow contriving to carry huge emotional impact. At other time you can listen to something and find it perfectly enjoyable but have effectively nothing interesting to say about it.

So it is for me with Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense by Early & Often.

It opens somewhat courageously: the first nine-minute track begins with three and a half minutes of cassette tape recording. It sounds like a street preacher addressing a crowd, although I admit I’ve not managed to follow the thread of his address thanks to the ambient noise and low quality of the recording. Still, this environmental distraction and noise – and the lone, desperate voice at the centre of it, striving to be heard – may be exactly what the band had in mind when they used the sample.

Once the song ‘Under the Phase’ emerges from beneath this, it’s a drawn-out, minimalist and slow affair, reminescent of early or mid-00s Radiohead at their most restrained and dirgey. The song grows and fades in volume and intensity throughout its duration, at times almost entirely silent for a few bars, with emotional vocals gently and earnestly sung over the top. Lyrically I have a strong sense that there is a profound sense of loss at the heart of this song, and for that reason I want to be careful with my criticism, so I will simply say that the somewhat opaque lyrics make it difficult for me to find the song as intense an experience as it is for Early & Often.

The second track is ‘Interval XXI’, which is 32 seconds of vocals and keys sampled and tugged about in a glitchy, dischordant fashion. I’m not sure what the intention is with this other than to be jarring. If it is that it’s an odd choice because ‘The Feast’ follows, and with its first minute dominated by the glockenspiel ‘Interval XXI’ seems to make little sense. Still, ‘The Feast’ may work better than ‘Under the Phase’, firstly because it grows steadily – with long minutes of restraint – toward an effective and powerful climax, and secondly because the lyrical imagery is more vivid and its sentiment more clear.

‘Interval XVII’ sounds like items being unloaded or poured; I can hear zips, things landing on porcelain, indistinct voices. I admit the source has me stumped, but as the almost indiscernible trip-hop beats beneath are slowly drawn out and the samples are crushed together into a noisy whole the intention becomes clear. This interval works better on its own merits and also serves as an intro for ‘False Victories’, which blends unusual beats with more of the same minimalist keys and ethereal vocal style. Much the same can be said of ‘No Fiction’, although this song enjoys far more musically active moments including a suitably intense, noisy finale.

I can’t pretend that I found Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense the emotive experience it obviously hopes to be; why I can’t exactly say, but perhaps a predilection for complexity or intensity over minimalism and an affinity with more direct, translucent lyrics goes some way toward explaining. Similarly, although a few neat musical tricks did tickle me, there were few moments I found genuinely memorable – perhaps because of that same lack of emotional resonance. So while I would not describe this as a bad EP, I can’t say I thought it a particularly good one either. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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One Response to “Early & Often – Present No Fiction, Fear No Tense (EP)”
  1. Jeffrey Adam says: