August 06, 2003

Fred Avril "That Horse Must Be Starving"

Some artists mix styles together and they make a pleasant sound. Nothing too scary; nothing too dangerous--they just play one element off of another and in so doing, they create their own particular style. Personally, I love it when when someone can take their paintbrushes, slaps things together, and only after making what looks like a holy mess of things, can create a brilliant work of art. We're not talking cut-and-paste, we're talking about random acts of creativity.

Fred Avril is a musical Jackson Pollock. He's dripped and dribbled all sorts of sonic colors onto a musical canvas and has created a record that is wonderfully unclassifiable. Sure, he's playing around in that whole "electronica" genre, but Avril's not about to be pigeonholed that easily. He can't be, because he refuses to sit still. That Horse Must Be Starving, his debut album, makes a mockery of classification, because you'll never know what's going to pop up next. He'll throw in an industrial-style beat that gives way into a quiet, ambient passage, which then turns into a passionate ballad sung to a hypnotic drum beat.

Song titles? Meaningless, because he switches things around mid-song and you might think that it's a whole other track. Take "The Date." It starts off as a wonderful little dance song, but near the end of the track it ends and drifts into an ambient number with faint vocals. Perhaps the best of the lot is the utter free-for-all of "Big Wheel II" and "Global Headphones." These two epic numbers, over fifteen minutes, go through every change in the book. Dance into trance into country into...well, everything else...Avril's not content to give you one thing at a time. Smudging the styles like this is very risky; if you're not masterful enough, it will be a huge mess. Luckily, Avril pulls it off; That Horse Must Be Starving is an album in a class all by itself, with no equals.

Is Fred Avril the next Marc Almond? If he keeps it up, he certainly will be, and that's not coming from the obvious reference to "Tainted Love" in "Big Wheel II." Like Almond, Avril is a man whose art and music is fair game to his inspiration. He owes a deep debt to many kinds of styles, and he's not going to negate one or the other, simply because they might not seem compatable. And, yes, at times, it's utterly camp. If you're not enthralled, confused and frustrated by That Horse Must Be Starving, you either don't get it, or you're lying. Avril is an artist seeking out, simply because you'll probably not have such an utterly confounding and totally enriching experience this year.

--Joseph Kyle

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