Album Review: Man Without Country - Foe

28 June 2012 | 2:50 pm | Katherine Edmonds

Foe is the kind of album that makes the rest of the world go quiet around you.

Cardiff duo Tomas Greenhalf and Ryan James are Man Without Country, an outfit built on an “atmospheric, and sometimes uneasy sonic palette”, according to their press materials. Their debut album is definitely in keeping with that, harking back to 1980s electronica but with a distinctively dark edge. Produced by the acclaimed Ken Thomas, of Sigur Rós fame, Foe was recorded in Greenhalf's bedroom, giving this release a really intimate feel. Right off the bat you know this is not going to be a feel-good album – it's melancholic and harrowing, and leaves you feeling just a little uncomfortable at its close.

Greenhalf and James layer sound over synth over guitars in such perfect harmony it sounds effortless. With so many things going on instrumentally it's easy to forget about the vocals, which shift from cold and hateful to eerily calming almost seamlessly. The lyrics, on the other hand, are shrouded in a moroseness that reflect genuine anguish.

King Complex, their debut single, has a little something extra. Similar to the soft melody played from a child's music box, there's a lullaby-like track played over the reverberating synths and guitar; it's tranquil, hypnotic and a stark contrast to Ryan James's afflicted lyrics, “You are a true parasite and you're the bane of my life”. It's hard to explain why, but it's enthralling. Inflammable Heart also offers up an interesting disparity between lyrics and pulsing synths; it peaks and then plummets so seamlessly you feel as if you've fallen into the abyss that is Man Without Country's pathos. An apt choice for the album's final track.

Foe is the kind of album that makes the rest of the world go quiet around you.

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