The Fun Years The Fun YearsGod Was Like, No
They don’t hide their names –Ben Recht and Isaac Sparks; but it’s likely those aren’t their real names, anyway–, but everything else around The Fun Years remains, for now, a mystery. And it’s better that way: as we all know, curiosity killed the cat, and to want to know too much about something might spoil the magic. Let’s control ourselves and just enjoy the absorbing and captivating audio, we don’t need more. In truth, there’s no more information available: they reside in the USA, probably in Brooklyn, where Barge Recordings have their offices, the label on which they already released three albums, including this “God Was Like, No”, although there have also been a handful of CD-Rs recorded in some humid, hidden, underground studio, released in editions so limited they are impossible to find these days. It’s this aura of minorities, this secrecy in which they seem to take refuge in, like in a fortress of solitude –to paraphrase Jonathan Lethem and, of course, Superman– that has fed the cult status and that makes the appearance of this record such an event in the small world that is avant-garde.
The cause of all this is “Baby, It’s Cold Inside” (Barge, 2008), a record that lived up to its title and transported the worn-out aesthetics of post-rock to a dimension that hadn’t been explored before. The Fun Years are no revolutionaries, they weren’t inventing anything new with that album –nor had they done so with its predecessor, the much ignored “Life-Sized Psychosis” (2007)– but they knew, maybe unintentionally, how to mix the right elements in the right proportions and at the right temperature. It wasn’t sound engineering, but a delirious technique of trial and error like alchemists do, or of organic intuition, like druggists who mix herbs until they find the remedy for whatever illness. Ben Recht plays the baritone guitar and scrapes the strings at the same time as he creates soft curtains of drones. His sound is tense, leaves splinters of sound with every movement of his fingers. Isaac Sparks plays with turntables and a mixer, and that is the element that sets The Fun Years apart, that makes them sound like a fusion of Philip Jeck’s or Janek Schaefer’s turntablizm with the ambient erosion of producers who treat guitar sounds through an computerised filter, such as Tim Hecker, Fennesz or Kevin Drumm. Nothing surprising, but a sublimated result that doesn’t sound like a simple sum of aesthetic options but like something personal and therefore original.
What The Fun Years achieved with “Baby, It’s Cold Inside”, a state of suspension and abandonment, a short circuit of the senses except that of touch –because the music enters through the skin, like solar light, rather than via the ears–, they repeat with a record that positions itself as conservative, but is probably the only possible option, the way things are. It is, because those who knew them beforehand want that, another shot of opium made from ingredients like Mogwai –like when Mogwai plug in some soft noise, go out for a beer and come back fifteen minutes later–, the old Labradford and, while we’re at it, the ever more cited Flying Saucer Attack –surely a trend topics for 2011. And also because, in case The Fun Years finally aspire to transgress the margins of cult, their spot between spacey ambient and neo-classical music with post-rock origins, they should conquer a wider audience with a refinement of their sonic weapons, not with an evolution that will happen, but that will have to wait until later.
In truth, there is one variation –a refinement, yes– during these 43 minutes of sensorial abduction. The Fun Years seem to sound less dark and imprisoned inside themselves with regards to “Baby, It’s Cold Inside”, as if the morning frost of that work, so mined with needles in the grooves and the heavy textures of guitars that contaminated the air, had vanished to make way for the splendour of dawn. It is, maybe, a gesture of optimism, of wanting to peek through the window in order to make first cautious contact with the outside world. A good gesture. And yes, in spite of the fact that the textures are rough and “God Was Like, No” sounds, at first, like post-rock with a sandpapered floor –and what about the metaphysical and negative title?–, in the end, the uninterrupted mantra of the music –a right jam of drones, Tony Conrad-like minimalism and vinyl as an instrument to make beautiful noise– leaves an emotive sediment that warms up the heart. They have excelled themselves without trying to do so. Little by little, it seems like they are paving the way, subconsciously, for the release of a record that should be titled “Baby, It’s Hot Inside”. Those records are tremendous, but that one –dreaming is free– would be their masterpiece..
The Fun Years - Makes Sense To Me