Friday, 21 October 2016

Album: Johnny Fox - Cais

Johnny Fox Cais

- Review by Noël Duplaa

Info: As one of the main songwriting forces in Laminate, The River Fane and now Ger Fox Sailing, Wexford based musician Johnny Fox has also somehow managed to maintain a prolific output of quality solo releases. With Cais, he maintains that streak of form with his first full length album, a collaboration between himself and Brazilian artist Samantha Capatti, drawing inspiration from Brazil’s rich musical heritage and blending it with his own distinctive take on lo-fi folk music. (It should be noted that it is available from his Bandcamp - - for the steal of €7, but through Bandcamp’s digital discography option, you can purchase it along with 30 other songs spread over 7 releases for just €13.50!)

Having shared a one bedroom flat in the heart of Sao Paolo for 18 months, Johnny Fox and Brazilian artist Samantha Capatti set about recapturing and crystallising their experiences, working separately in different mediums - Johnny writing music, Samantha writing poetry. On returning to Ireland, they set about combining the two elements to form what would become Cais. And, musically, it’s very clear that the sounds and atmospheres of that experience have soaked into Johnny's writing and production, citing influence from "Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque and various other 'mestres' of Brazil’s golden era of the 60's and 70's, as well as contemporary artists such as Cícero, Marcelo Camelo and Hurtmold." However, more than just a series of reference points, this album is attempting to create a vibrant world to mirror their experiences - the entire album feels like it should be soundtracking a couple's descent into love in some beautiful imaginary sun drenched 70’s road movie. You can practically hear the lens fares. 

Johnny Fox - Bonita Serena

Throughout, the songs are woven together with the connecting thread of field recordings from their time in Brazil, from drunken parties to chirping birds, giving the album a feeling of real intimacy, binding the tracks together, creating a palpable sense of time and place throughout the work.  Listen to how single 'Bonita Serena' takes its time creating a hazy, reverb soaked mood, before finally cresting on a wave of drums and harmonies. Or the slow, approaching thunderstorm of album closer 'O Que Nunca Quis', as it swells and menaces, never breaking.  The grunge logic of some of the melodies, like 'Essa Dor' and 'Exposta' makes it feel like, with a different aesthetic, some of these songs could have been loud stompers - the thing is, they manage to retain the tension of that form of songwriting, but instead of explosions of noise, deliver a sultry simmer and throb, their odd angles internalised and restrained. So instead of just being an expression of confused anger in a rock song, they become the giddy, buzzing hum of infatuation fizzing just below the surface.

There is a massive sense of a project overflowing with ideas, an overflow that spills into the videos, lyrics, photos and artwork. All of which contribute towards the creation of a world, buzzing with complex life and heart. And, really, for all its impressive songwriting and general artistry, the true strength of this collection of songs is its warmth.  With the seventies feel of the simple, clean production style, the reverbed, harmonised melodies, and the accompanying art and videos, the entire project just feels incredibly inviting - it’s the sound of two people opening parts of their worlds not only to each other but to every listener and it feels like falling in love on a warm summer beach night over the course of the best drunken dinner party.

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