There are numerous traits which enthral attention within the new album from Estonian band Pia Fraus with with fascination leading the way. In its contrast lit body it offers an embrace of ears and imagination thick in melancholy yet is as life affirming and rich in hope and optimism as any heart could desire. From its first to last shoegaze nurtured breath Empty Parks eagerly beguiled whilst presenting tracks just as keenly buoyant with contagious dreampop instincts.
Formed in 1998, Pia Fraus has crafted a potent sound and reputation across five studio albums and a host of similarly well and enthusiastically received EPs and singles not forgetting a wealth of shows and tours across Europe and further afield. Their new album, which the band declare their poppiest yet, sees the sextet of vocalist/synthist Eve Komp, vocalist/guitarist/synthist Rein Fuks, bassist Reijo Tagapere, synthist Kärt Ojavee, drummer Joosep Volk and backing vocalist Kristel Eplik linking up with producer John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Stereolab, Broken Social Scene, Teenage Fanclub), himself a true musical inspiration to songwriter Fuks.
Empty Parks has emerged as one spellbinding encounter, a dreamy soulful whisper of pop magnetism sure to provide a warm knowing hug around any dark day whilst recognising the shadows such times bring. From the moment album opener Hidden Parks spread its pensive seduction Empty Parks was charming ears and senses. A soothing touch of keys is swiftly entangled in intoxicating strands spun by the guitar, rhythms a darker hue in the contemplation but just as encouraging with their catchy stroll. With the familiar and always beguiling mix of Komp and Fuk’s vocals, the song effortlessly slipped under the skin, the band’s expected but never dulled blend of female and male vocals rapture in its own right.
An even paced enticement, the track makes for a transfixing start though the following Love Sports had body and attention quickly bouncing with greater urgency straight after; its pop virulence and melody thick mesmerism pure captivation. As with all tracks there is a delicious claustrophobic effect to the song’s temptation, an easy and whole immersion in its creative enchantment which never warrants a wish to escape in this song or the album as a whole.
Slow Boat Fades Out is next up, a track which shares the radiance and bearing of nineties bred shoegaze with the band’s distinctive character of touch and sound which is further lit up by that sublime vocal union while successor Mr. Land Freezer bounds in on a spirited canter drenched in a thick electronic mist. Both tracks share imagination stirring hooks and melodies which caress like lustful lovers and each with increasing dexterity had the body swinging as they slithered under the skin.
Across the wonderful Young Marble Giants meets The Pastels like graceful beauty of Sweet Sunday Snow and the similar tantalising of The New Water with something of an XTC air to its riveting pop enterprise, the album only tightened their hold on ears and pleasure with Paper Flower Projects adding its own substantial enticement. In comparison to its predecessors, it is almost rowdy in its energy and muggy in its breath but another provider of melodic and harmonic radiance around a rhythmic inducement which makes you want to dance within a web of guitar and bass fertility which grips ears and accentuates the pleasure.
If not quite inciting the passions as those before it, You’re Not in Love held attention firmly in its dextrous hands before Nice and Clever and Late Summer Night soon after shared their respective melancholy bound and increasingly tempestuous serenade and balmy yet similarly suggestively mercurial and intense proposal on ears, the latter with a captivating drone like quality.
Australian Boots brings Empty Parks to a close, the song a final absorbing caress which harbours its own emotive disturbance, one which openly and eagerly simmers but never quite erupts. The track is a joy of intrigue and intimation within an equally thrilling embrace and a fine end to a release which simply kept the real world at bay for forty five odd minutes.
Empty Parks is out now via Seksound / Vinyl Junkie; available @ https://piafraus.bandcamp.com/album/empty-parks
Pete RingMaster 05/03/2020
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