Fax Gang’s “Aethernet” is like getting kicked hard in the head by the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen; it’s immediate, fatiguing, and eternally intoxicating.
Throughout this whole album the prevailing feeling is that this world Fax Gang have created is all that exists – it is profoundly difficult to loosen yourself from the moment as it’s in motion. Though “Aethernet” is focused on proving the Fax Gang concept, the band also expose the substantial potential hinted at on “FxG3000”, their debut EP. As ever, it sounds like nothing else around.
This development is instantly thrust upon the listener with opening tracks “Anything to Gain / Nothing to Lose” and “Reality / Dreams”, each produced by Blacklight. Melodically these songs are comprised of thin, decayed tones, presenting the group’s maturation through the jading of sounds once pristine. More obviously indicative of growth are these tunes’ approach to composition and structure – the unsustainable growth of “FxG3000” is here traded for evolving compounds of timbre and percussion. Particularly on “Reality” the team play riskily in the spaces between major and minor, fluttery drums repressing an ocean of inspirational angst. Fax Gang lyricist and frontman PK Shellboy is not nearly as important to mood or storytelling on “Aethernet” – instead they take a propellant role, pushing songs forward through the constant bitcrushed sea. On the EP PK was buried in this ocean, here they’re controlling the tides. It’s really the group’s producers – Blacklight, GLACIERbaby, maknaeslayer, and Naioki – that provide “Aethernet” its tangible material, and most of it is as gorgeous as it is harsh.
As the album goes deeper into its nine tracks colliding signals begin to pop up; “Itsumo” stalls the momentum of the first songs, but retains some charm with surging synth arpeggios. “Mirror” is similarly fine but mostly based on residual adrenaline. “Fallen”, by fair contrast, is a perfect example of how a slow burning surge song can remain truly engaging; machine gun kicks and uncatchable hi hats keep the song at a irresistable stammered crawl. Naioki’s beat brings a welcome guitar sample, the strings seem laced with glass under the distortion’s glare, and sound just as sharp in the mix. PK’s breezy, distant vocals and fantastic mixing add up to a joyous blitz.
“Shotgun”, the seventh track, is a nod to the fact that much of Fax Gang’s music feels like getting barraged with pellets. The song is gorgeously heavy, featuring thrashing kicks from GLACIERbaby. PK sounds exhausted under the tune’s weight, the main melody taunting in playful descent. “Extant” and “Goodbye” are pleasant additions also – on the former guest vocalist AOL somehow remains a human touch in spite of her entirely electrified voice – but it’s the semifinal song “Implosion” that really opens doors for the group. The song is laser bright, radioactive with a spectrum of timbre. The way “Implosion” breaks down in its final half, tearing and folding into its own sonic fabric, suggests Fax Gang are aware of the possibilities of applying their pulsing crush to other, less conventional forms. There are similar hints right at the albums very beginning; “Anything to Gain” grabs the listener with a torn eruption of sound.
That’s not to say a full album of Fax noise would be even tolerable. “Aethernet” knocks hard – blasting Fax Gang in a silent room is like a cheat code to euphoria – but can get a bit fatiguing thanks to nearly blanket use of maximum volume. However, this is a band that thrives on controlled chaos. Loosening the restraints may lead to them finding entirely new ways to use their sound; “Implosion” is by far the most viscerally gripping track on the album thanks to its volatile deconstruction. There’s a balance to it, though, and this debut record is far better off as Fax Gang’s mission statement than an overwrought experimental work. This music is at the underground’s bleeding edge, a place of entropy and instability, and “Aethernet” takes this energy and gives it structure and life beyond random curiosity. Endless possibilities lead a listener to consider the group’s future with eagerness; Fax Gang have contained chaos – the question is now whether they can more consciously wield this power. No matter what comes next, “Aethernet” evidences with unique strength that Fax Gang are here to stay.
Listen to “Aethernet” here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)