Astromancy: outsider avant-rock / pop with hiphop and funk rhythms and film-noir ambience

Fastest, Astromancy, Galaxy Records, CD (2012)

Misfit one-man band Fastest returns with his seventh original full-length album to deliver yet another sermon to the world. The music is a strange mixture of deliberately awkward and lumpen funk rhythms played on old cheap electronic keyboards from thirty years ago, synthesised percussion from the same period with hiphop influences, a declamatory vocal in near-gruff tones, sonorous brass orchestration, weird effects and lite-metal guitar. A curious smoky film-noir atmosphere hovers over most songs; the Fastest man’s voice might be that of an extra hard-boiled detective who’s seen too much unpunished crime, too many corrupt police commissioners, too many duplicitous blonde babes and too many gangsters with their feet in concrete thrown over bridges into rivers below. The songs are usually quite short and tight in their delivery with not many instrumental passages, and this gives the album a lot of urgent energy.

“Fantasy II” is a strong start to the album with its clarion-call introduction, stuttery drumming and hurried vocal delivery. “Southern Mankind” mixes up the pace by switching from one set of rhythm and melody to another and back or to another. “The Wind” features for once a beautiful acoustic guitar tune, only for it to be mussed up by another bumptious rhythm loop, some pumping tuba sounds and thumpy synth-drum noises. “Cruelty” features some scrapy metal sounds that attempt to imitate barking dogs, more stuttery drumming and hoarse Christian Bale / Batman singing, if indeed Bale’s Batman can sing. “Through your Eyes (Vannesa’s Secret Version)” is a surprisingly dance-worthy piece albeit with a rather dark distorted vocal and the track could almost fall into the current dark techno scene. In “Divine”, the Fastest guy decides he wants to sing more like Tom Hardy’s Bane character, if indeed Hardy’s Bane can sing with the gas mask off. “All that’s left” comes closest to being a mood song with plaintive 80s-style synth tones.

Final track “Katrina” with its faux harmonica tones and stop-start rhythms is Fastest’s reference to the hurricane of the same name that ravaged New Orleans in 2005. It’s less angry than I thought it might be and it fades out in a hurried way that doesn’t do the album much justice to my mind.

There’s so much on each and every song that the danger here is that the brain just can’t take it all in and so the album might pass in a blur of awkward rhythms, bursts of drumming, weird hushed vocalising and dark secretive ambience. The songs are all very consistent in their ornery nature and energy though after seven albums I’m starting to wonder whether Fastest has got himself in a bit of a rut and needs some friends to help him find an undiscovered part of himself, something that perhaps he’s repressed for too long for fear of being thought weak and vulnerable, that would enhance his music.

Contact: Aquarius Records

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