[Reviewed by Damiano Lenzi]
Immediately after listening to the first track of their eponymous album, you understand that Feel No Other are excellent songwriters. “Pan’s Shadow” lasts for just 50 seconds and it features only vocals and a sampled cuckoo clock, but in this little time they’re able to develop an articulated melody and to introduce the anxious verve of the record in a climax of tension. The vocal line seems to be composed for a much more complex musical score, that is absent but nonetheless perceivable, as it happens when listening to minimalists such as Scott Walker and David Sylvian.
There are four more of these short episodes in the album, lasting one minute or a little more, and in each of them the duo demonstrates its excellent ability to be essential and direct (the martial “March Towards the East” sounds like an instrumental by Dead Can Dance, while “Synoyi Edohi” is a curious blend of art-pop and industrial). It’s probably the alchemy between the two elements of the band that gives such a good result. Claudia Gregory’s singing and songwriting has a vast background, from Americana and Country (“March Towards the West”) to French (“La Fiancé de l’Eau”) and Central-European folk music (“Gunslinger”), while Brian Lea McKenzie is a master of Badalamentian movie soundtrack synthesis. These two aspects may appear to be in conflict, but instead the result is surprisingly smooth and unusual.
In many occasions the mix of acoustic instrumentation (including bluegrass mandolins and banjos) and cinematic synths works perfectly, creating epic moments such as “Altavilla Milicia” or smart cabaret songs like “Winter is All Over You”. The technical skills of the two are also worth mentioning: in the middle of “Winter is All Over You” Claudia’s distinctive voice soars in an enchanting bridge where she creates structured layers of vocal tracks. On the other hand, the production is quite original: we’re used to hearing 80s style analog leads and basses until boredom, instead here in most the cases the sounds seem to date to the 90s and early digital composition (the brass theme of “Altavilla Milicia”, the string pads of “Eclipse”). These sounds may seem cheap and outdated, instead they help give a unique feel to the album. “Feel No Other” sounds like the soundtrack of a good old movie: evocative and powerful, it strikes straight to the heart and I really hope to hear more of their weird and elegant tunes in the future.