Despite being formed in Newcastle in 2012, Fret are a new band for me. A trio comprising Steve Strode (guitar), Rob Woodcock (drums) and Cath Tyler (bass/ vocals) they play an intelligent sort of eclectic rock, with folk undertones. These are woven together into the band’s overall sound as to, at times, be almost imperceptible. This means that the deeper you mine into their music the more that you will come out with, there’s more here than you might imagine from a first listen.
Having released a number of EPs (check out the band’s recorded history here), this is Fret!’s debut album and I have to say that the band have really stepped up to the mark for it. It was really refreshing for me to review an album with shorter tracks since, as regular readers will know, I tend to be attracted to music that develops slowly and builds gradually. So it is a mark of Fret!’s sound that they left such an impression with me.
The album begins with ‘DK’ the opening bars of which leave you open to the idea that Fret! could go anywhere with what they are doing, especially when the surf guitar surfaces and submerses again at regular intervals. The track does act as a kind of overture, picking up some of the styles that the band use in different parts of the album and setting the scene for what is to come.
This established, ‘Freeman’ starts in a rather ‘Nirvana-esque’ way, but with a much more folk-based vocal which I found interestingly disorientating. This is accentuated by the lyrics themselves, which on this and the other long track, ‘Cawlett’, are about the minutiae of life. I really like how this interacts with the overall sound of the album which is much more panoramic. What they do have in common, however, is in their intensity…even where that music is instrumental. ‘Attune’, the other track with a vocal (‘Judders’ also has a sort sung section), is far more upbeat and would probably be the most accurate distillation of the band’s approach in a single track combining the more upbeat and heavier elements of the instrumentals on the album with the more folk-tinged vocals.
Elsewhere there are some great instrumentals which show evidence of Fret!’s musical influences which span the generations from the sixties up to the present day. In trying to evidence this I tried to single out particular tracks as representing certain genre, but found this almost impossible to do given the way they are so bound up and embedded into the band’s sound. Instead just have a listen and you’ll see what I mean
The exception to this might be ‘Surf’ which, as you may have already guessed, has elements of Dick Dale style guitar. Even here there is a mix of styles that gives the track something extra, reminding me of the Wooden Indian Burial Ground album that I reviewed about a year ago (here). ‘Surf’ is a great way to finish the album on a real high, and in this sense I really like the way that with this, and the opener ‘DK,’ Fret! have really ‘bookended’ the album well.
‘Through The Wound The Light Comes In’ in many ways is not the sort of album that I usually review. Having said that it does tick many of my boxes in that the unexpected is never far away, and because of how Fret! bring together different styles in a seamless and effective manner. Add in the great cover artwork by Bristol artist Tom McCarthaigh, and this is an album that you can listen to again and again, and always find something new to appreciate.
”Through The Wound The Light Comes In’ is available now on download and limited edition CD from the Fret! bandcamp (here).