Monday, November 17, 2008

Fucoustic - Folderol (self released)

Fucoustic - Folderol

seeing them at Don Pedros last year and talking with them after the show....I got a little obsessed with "Fucoustic plays Fugazi" and randomly listening to them here and there for puzzled Fugazi fans. Recently they contacted me about their new album of even more Fugazi reinterpretations and I spent some time with Folderol for the past few months.

I had to investigate the title right away....Folderol is defined as Foolishness; nonsense. It's amazing Fucoustic see their project that way because it seems that to them nothing is taken more seriously than Fugazi. You can most definitely call them a tribute band, not cover band....this is passionately reinterpreted material not just played with different instruments.
It took foolishness maybe in the beginning to embark on this project but the result is anything but.
Most importantly, none of this is done with a sliver of irony.
This could go so far as to inspire the next generation of acoustic guitarists to pick up the cliche, overused folk implement, whether or not they know about Fugazi.
This could even be an entry point for some people not knowing where to begin in the Fugazi underworld.
It certainly isn't without energy of it's's not like the Iron and Wine cover of 'Great Heights', going the opposite way from the original, making it almost unrecognizable...a really sad sweet version to put on mix tapes. This is aggressive and it makes no difference it's done with acoustic guitars.
I swear these versions are even louder than the source in cases...they have even more energy...I know, I know that's practically sacrilegious, but it doesn't take anything away from the original...ever.

This time Fucoustic tackles material from the more challenging albums; Repeater, Red Medicine and Steady Diet of Nothing. These may have been the songs that had particular meaning and didn't immediately lend themselves to easy covers.
In Provisional, they employ a drum machine for the first time, but it's the most minimal tinny sounding beat, like the acoustic compositions themselves, stripping the rhythm down to the most essential piece and then putting it back together completely differently. Right inbetween verses, they have the greatest sounding slide, scraped guitar solo... their version of Fugazi's dissonant sustained harmonics. It's recorded so clean, so compressed, every note can be heard, every string ringing, every ridge ground as the pick runs down it.

They also interestingly do 'Merchandise', Fugazi's condemnation of band merch as if to say in Fucoustic's case that they are aware of what they are doing and how it might come across, they've come to terms with honoring a band that means so much to them. They aren't making any apologies if met with criticism, this is the way they see it, and are doing a damn good job. They mess with the harmonies a little and like other tracks taking basslines and lead guitar and translate them into 2 6 string acoustics. It's true to the original but things are emphasized.
On 'Around the Corner' they use the top of the acoustic as percussion, pounding away between chords....strumming muted strings, creating the bass chord structure. Vocally they are at their best on this track... very much in the spirit of Fugazi down to the layered vocals.

I've given up on trying to listen to my Fucoustic vs. Fugazi playlist, there's no obvious comparison, no formula to the reinterpretation. It's always recognizable, but completely different. It's really some kind of lost unplugged sessions, I have to remind myself that this isn't Fugazi. They keep tricking me....down to the vocal quality... and I know the words to the songs unconsciously. I'll sing along when it comes up on random and forget for a minute it's not an alternate version.

It's really something to have the endurance and willpower to devote your professional music life to recreating another bands material. Going to this length in live performance and recording. You get the sense that if they have anything personal to say at some point they decided it's best summed up already by the DC band, they just want to do it their way.

This is an anomaly of fandom, creating something so closely based on the original that it becomes it's own entity, an essential part of the Fugazi story completely endorsed by Ian himself (who gave them a tour of DC last time they played the Black Cat).
Sadly I don't think they will be coming back to play live thanks to homeland security and some Visa troubles.

Any band should be so lucky as to have a tribute like this... a retelling of the familiar stories shedding new light on the original. Folderol just seems to bring up more questions then far are they going to carry this out? Is it still enjoyable? Now that they've met Ian, has it come to some sort of a conclusion? Do they have things they've been waiting to release? Their own music?

Folderol is available in the US from CD baby.

Go download one track from Folderol: no surprise

Andreas emailed me after the review with a few answers to my questions:

... we will carry on as long we feel like doing it and as long as there are opportunities to play good gigs (means: if we find the right gig-places) and as long it is possible for us: my daughter is 8 months now and daniel just got a son 3 weeks ago!).
we played our last gig this august, but are planning to play some shows next year nearby where we live.
so we carry on: it is a very special thing, like you said, a tribute, a homage to wonderful music - and hereby quality counts.
and the best thing, yes it already happened: Fugazi like what we recorded and played, and so do some great people like you!

kepp your eyes open, thanks! Andy

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