It may be hard to see the perspective logic of the album art above. There aren’t any clues; no names, no titles, no context. The figures don’t even have faces. The record is White Fence’s latest effort Is Growing Faith, not that you would have known it from the cover. But really, the concept is one that’s fairly common in today’s flourishing lo-fi revival scene: joyful confusion.
Where to start? Between the blue background and green foreground, you can’t even tell what kind of scene is appearing. My initial knee-jerk reaction was a mountainside on a sunny day, but really, that doesn’t make any sense either. There’s a male figure bending down towards a female figure (even genders here being assumed) for no apparent reason. The title doesn’t sync up with the picture painted. This is one hell of a misdirected clusterfuck.
If there’s any clue as to what it all means, we can’t just look at names or titles or contexts. All those things are kept from us for a reason after all. Here, there are two pictures planes being smashed together, and two figures are sandwiched somewhere in the middle, devoid of perspective or logical placement. The man is more fully colored in than the woman, and both figures are done in different mediums. A point is being made: there was a process of combining these elements together to make the cover, just as the music was crafted from multiple different sources and techniques.
The first hint is in the leadoff track “And By Always”. Tape hiss and whining background noise start off followed closely by a steady machine-driven drum beat. The melodies are agreeable and light with a churning and jangly guitar providing support. The key here seems to be the occasional warping in the recording. Every so often, a note hits a bit sharp or flat, and as a listener you find yourself slightly distracted or confused by the sudden asymmetry in the song. Much like the cover, smashing together lots of different elements in unusual ways draws attention to the craft of the track. It’s hard not to acknowledge the rest of the album as a DIY project from this point onwards.
Again, halfway through the album we encounter “Get That Heart”, which starts off with a whirring and distorted speed-up/slow-down of the recording and a very noticeable volume swell. After the beat settles down, what ensues is a unique sound. The drums are looped into a perpetual tom-riding beat, over which a squawky underground ’80s-style guitar plucks along. The vocal melody is akin to a old ’60s paisley-pop song. In the span of this three minute song, there are traces of several generational styles, and they’re all highlighted with the technical “flaws” that pepper the track.
Overall, the album shouldn’t make sense to you. But really, since when does an album have to make sense for someone to really enjoy it? That’s what White Fence seems to be banking on with Is Growing Faith: a series of delightful little “what-if” vignettes that let the listener enjoy catchy melodies and perky quirks, all tied in by consciously crappy bedroom recording job. A good place for sonic dreams.
Artist: White Fence
Album: Is Growing Faith
Tracklist & Review (Allmusic)