Sweaty sounds like lust viewed through a fractured lense. On ‘My Man’, Melbourne’s Fatti Frances offers a series of set pieces suggestive of common and very human desire, yet the productions they accompany are cold and steel-coloured: impenetrable and inhuman. This six track cassette – a series of the producer’s more “experimental” takes – vendors dread even while it yearns for warmth and contact. At times the productions sound predatory in their skittishness and refusal to succumb.
There are plenty of precedents to this: Fatti Frances’ approach is reminiscent of some of Rhythm and Sound’s vocal-driven productions, but also the anxiety-stricken love songs heard on King Midas Sound’s 2010 LP Waiting For You. Frances’ productions aren’t as precision-engineered (the bass sometimes feels less assertive than it could be) but the compositional nous is here, and so are the narcoleptic textures and hallucinatory noir shades. Smoke, rain, and tobacco orange skylines at 4am in the morning.
Most fascinating is Frances’ vocals. Always on the verge of a whisper, they tease quiet avenues through the network of forbidding sound, even while in their soulfulness and humanity they’re totally at odds with it. ‘So Bad’ is the one instance where the two elements sound in harmony: a strong desirous refrain supported by an ambivalent bass pulse; an unrequited desire imprisoned in a metal cube. That seems to be the prevailing theme across these six tracks: advances shrugged away, soft gazes met with blank stares. Steely, mechanical detachment in the face of warmth.
This is one of the strangest and most alluring pop records of 2012, so it feels like an injustice that thousands of people won’t hear it due to its format. At a time when Australian music is widely regarded as a paradise of middle class whimsy and jangle, the fact that our air is capable of cultivating music like this is reassuring. If Sweaty is indeed just a cast-off collection of experiments in the lead up to a full-length LP next year, then hopefully the world doesn’t end next week like the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar has predicted. That would be lame.
Label: Heavy Lows
Release date: November 2012