Even from its very first beats, Awake and Hungry, the debut EP by London-based collective Folly Group, sets out to challenge its listeners. Out this June for So Young Records, this is a hugely ambitious work by a group of artists who have a very clear idea of where they’re going and what they want to do, complimented by a sharp production which lets its many innovative assets shine through. The sound cultivated by Folly Group in this record is a heady mix of different genres and impressions, blending almost spoken-word moments, smooth baritone, and cutting post-punk vocals; the jangling guitars of bluesy classic rock and the deep thrum of trance music; some hectic drum sections worthy of a hard rock set and some clever distortions bringing it all together. Through its six tracks, the EP is a relentless cavalcade, bursting with ideas, inventive and danceable at the same time.
It’s a very mature sound for a debut EP, and one with an impressive amount of layers, and the deeper one dives beyond the surface, the more scrupulously curated details one finds. The lyrics, too, are elaborate, carefully chosen, not shying away from the outlandish and the baroque where needed, channeling a remarkable intensity of feeling. This, it becomes clear very quickly, is a record that demands to be listened to with attention and more than once.
Yet it is also a record that could – perhaps should – be listened to with abandon. Brainy and almost maniacal in its attention to detail as it is, it also manages to create an immersive ambience which it is easy to simply sink into. Some tracks do this more smoothly than others – take for instance title track ‘Awake and Hungry,’ a very apt mood-setter for the rest of the record—whereas others maintain a sharper kind of tension, as is the case with ‘Ripples,’ which has a hectic sound, carried by a truly impressive drum section, perfectly resonating with its title. This, too, is another track in which the versatility of the vocals on this record truly shines through; it is one of the most remarkable features of the EP, expressive and confident, playing with singing styles from genres very distant at times from each other.
Some other tracks play around with more traditionally recognisable sounds, such as the energetic rock riff in ‘Butt No Rifle,’ which then gets broken up into a snappier, dirtier sound before re-emerging in a way that almost demands a mosh pit. Elsewhere the band indulges more in their experimental side, looking for stranger, more unexpected sounds and stringing them together in electronic rhythms which are in places like the elevated version of something out of a retro video game arcade. Good examples of this are found in ‘Fewer Close Friends,’ where the intertwining of the different sound threads is especially intriguing, or in ‘Sand Fight,’ a track that builds up its tempo and intensity more and more as it goes on while still preserving the hook of a surprising mellow riff, and which certainly closes the record on a memorable note.
Easily my favourite track is ‘Four Wheel Drive,’ which starts out like something you’d expect to hear in a late night club, incorporates a guitar section which would make Ennio Morricone proud, winks at punk in its vocals and hammering drums, and manages somehow to remain faithful to what it borrows from all these genres while sounding like its own, unique thing. It is, I think, a perfect example of what Folly Group are capable of, and of the level of finesse they can carry it out with. That these songs are also clearly made for live performance only enhances the experience; it is so easy to visualise them performed on stage.
Awake and Hungry is a relative – a cousin not-so-distant, perhaps – to some other works heard from the London scene in recent years, a part of something buzzing and intriguing that exists at the intersection of rock and electronica, jazz and punk and which keeps taking new, intriguing shapes. This particular incarnation certainly has a very strong personality of its own. The promise of something that could grow into a very compelling long player is certainly there, and in the end the final impression is that once again, this is just the surface layer of something deeper and even more ambitious.
Awake and Hungry is released June 11th via So Young Records. Vinyl and t-shirt bundles can be ordered here.
Photo Credit: Josh Taylor Moon