Unsurprisingly for a man who has been dragging his feet around Cambodia and Bali for the last few years, Lo-Fang’s sound is entirely eclectic throughout debut album Blue Film.
Written on the move between South East Asia and his parents house in Maryland, the now LA-based Matthew Hemerlein has fully drawn on his talents as a multi-instrumentalist and past life as a music teacher, turning his well-trained hands to the art of breathy intelligent pop.
Regaling his experiences of travel and journeys into the unknown, Blue Film very much sees the experimental offset against the classical, creating an album full of juxtapositions and soul-searching.
There is certainly a transitionary air about the 30 year old musician at the moment, having garnered the support of young New Zealand starlet Lorde and secured a slot on her upcoming world tour. They’re a good match creatively with their similar brand of avant garde pop, but where Lorde’s beauty lies in her simplicity, Lo-Fang has a much more layered and even chaotic element to his songwriting.
Slick opener “Look Away” is a soaring number with a sweeping chorus that lodges itself firmly into the subconscious. What it lacks lyrically is masked by Lo-Fang’s impressively varied instrumentation, which succeeds in detracting from what is perhaps the one area of music he fails to master.
Throughout “Boris” and “When We’re Fire”, Lo-Fang expertly plays with tempos and breakdowns allowing a more stripped back vibe to resonate. He has a knack for unfurling tracks slowly, building up to the ethereal peaks in every chorus. In places his singing lends itself to James Blake comparisons, as heavily produced whispers and vocal caresses during “Light Year” are eked out over a thumping jigsaw like composition.
Again toying with ups and downs, the title track is a faster tumbling jumble of electronics that feel slightly at odds with the plethora of plinking strings and elevated orchestration at its core. Whilst it remains pretty, it feels overindulgent in places as sounds clamour for place before bleeding into “Interlude”’.
Hailed as Lorde’s ‘second favourite song of 2013′, “#88” is where things come together a bit more, as the instruments finally find their place within the mix. But in an album full of unexpected quirks, it’s Lo-Fangs unsuspecting cover of “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease that gives the most surprises. Utterly turning it on its head, he manages to give the track a new lease of life through a stark yet soft rendition.
As “Permutations” plays the album out on a contemplative note, it’s clear that Lo-Fang has certainly poured years of work into this dozen-track debut. His musicianship is laudable, but for all his prowess as a classical musician, it can also feel like a hindrance as it conflicts with the monotonous quality of his vocals.
Beautiful in places, but falling flat on an emotional level elsewhere, there is an air of duality in Lo-Fang’s work as light and dark elements intertwine and clash with each other. For someone who has done so much travelling, it is clear that Lo-Fang is still finding his feet.