Published Mar 06, 2019FET.NAT are here to make the avant-garde groove. The Hull, QC four-piece certainly know how to lay down irresistible earworms on their new album Le Mal — from the galloping percussion on opening tracks "Tapis," and "Patio Monday," to the stubby cool jazz bass notes and shuffling drums of "Des Fois." The sputtering beat on "Des Fois II," meanwhile, would be a snug fit on plenty of '80s hip-hop classics.
However, FET.NAT take those conventionally catchy elements and frequently turn them on their ears. With an ethos that's part hard bop, part Brian Eno, the band challenge listeners in dynamic and engaging fashion throughout these nine tracks. Part of that offbeat sound can be attributed to what the band have called a "mirror" effect concept, in which they play portions of the music with standard instruments, then other parts with vintage MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to create sound refractions. The result: plenty of ambient, abrasive, and downright unpredictable sounds abounding throughout the LP.
Aside from that MIDI experimentation, Le Mal is also endlessly experimental because of the genres, instruments and playing styles that the band mashes up, even on the songs where MIDI isn't part of the equation. That jazzy playing on "Des Fois" is coupled with hoarsely whispered lyrics that are barely decipherable, though the neurosis behind them rings loud and clear.
Same goes for "Soft Purse," which sports a borderline hard rock rhythm interspersed with squealing feedback. "Tapis d'Orient" meanwhile, has funky '70s-style bass notes in the vein of a Sly and the Family Stone record. Speaking of slyness: the song's French lyrics are sung with what sounds like a slithering tongue.
Such vastly contrasting pieces shouldn't complement each other, yet they do. That's a testament to both the deftness of FET.NAT's playing, and the band's boldness to experiment with such abandon. And even though Le Mal by no means makes for easy listening, its easier components are the sugar that makes the rougher avant-garde edges go down. Think of it as a complex but well-balanced cocktail — if you drink Le Mal down, it'll leave you wobbly in the best possible way. (Boiled)