AN ANTICIPATORY RETROSPECTIVE
In November, Seattle-based electronic trio Fey Moth (and yes, I’m aware of my recent affinity for reviewing female-led trios) released “Inside,” a new, darkly upbeat single. When I stumbled upon the track a few weeks ago, my interest was piqued and I decided to do a bit of digging into the band’s previous work. Thanks to the direct-distribution, name-your-price model that they and so many other smaller-market bands have adopted in recent years, it was easy to get my hands on their most recent album, Flesh Foam Bread Bone, and intermediate EP, White Blind. So, in lieu of any new music of theirs beyond the single and B-side, I’d like to offer this article as more of a retrospective than anything else.
At first listen, Fey Moth seem to suffer from an overabundance of eclectic (and sometimes clashing) synths. There were moments when bizarre sounds felt like they had simply been cut and pasted on top of otherwise completely harmonious tracks, apparently for no reason other than to be as weird as possible. But the second time through, when I knew what to expect, those same decisions seemed to make perfect sense.
The thing is, lead singer Piper Drake’s voice is extremely distinctive. It’s far from the irritating valley-girl whine of someone like Ke$ha, but she has a sassy affectation that takes some getting used to. Over a more traditional instrumental line, it might be jarring and out-of-place. But within the layered, diverse, and often abruptly shifting context of Fey Moth’s synthesizers, her voice fits in as one more (albeit prominently-featured) sound among the menagerie. The seemingly immiscible elements blend into an improbable little symphony, and the band should be seriously commended for their creativity on that front. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does.
The lyrics, in keeping with the instrumental theme, cover a diverse range of subjects. The nigh-incomprehensible surrealist babbling of songs like “Flesh Foam Bread Bone” meet their counterpoints with the relatively straightforward, relatable verses of “Rooster Shoes” and its ilk. Fey Moth aren’t fans of predictability, which they make abundantly clear while still managing to maintain a distinct style and direction.
The impression I get from these recordings is that they’re meant to transport you to a place that is simultaneously familiar and alien. When I lined up Flesh Foam Bread Bone and White Blind for their inaugural listens, I was stuck in the middle of a thirty-below, fifty-mile-per-hour wind, white-out blizzard in rural Maine. I cranked up the living room speakers and hunkered down in a chair that faced out the window, watching the snow pile up at what seemed to be an impossible rate. And this catchy, slightly odd electronic music came on, taking what was already a pretty whimsical canvas and painting a wholly unexpected landscape upon it. Fey Moth will do everything they can to surprise you, and it’s fairly astonishing how often they succeed.