Villagers - Fever Dreams (Domino)

FEVER DREAMS is expansive, ambitious, and cinematic in scope, fusing the many disparate strands of Conor J O’Brien’s music into one entity. It is also the oddest album of his career.

In Becoming A Jackal, and especially Darling Arithmetic, O’Brien showed his lyrical, melodic, quieter side. {Awayland} was full on bombast and over the top arrangements. The magnificent The Art Of Pretending To Swim explored faith and belief. Fever Dreams is all this, sometimes within the same song.

Much has been made, in writings to date on this album, of Duke Ellington as an influence, but little has been said of two, much more obvious inspirations - 1970s soul, with a touch of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (heard most clearly on ‘So Simpatico’ ) and Paul McCartney, particularly Macca’s more outré moments on The White Album and McCartney.

This is an album with distorted voices, vinyl crackle, random non-sequiturs (the furious punk rock blast at the end of the otherwise mellow ‘Circles In The Firing Line’ - unparalleled in O’Brien’s work to date ), psychedelic languidness, and moments of grandstanding bombast (the entirety of ‘The First Day’ ).

Yet, it is the quieter moments where O’Brien’s great gifts shine brightest and best. ‘Momentarily’ fuses the soul, electronica, and Macca melodiousness into something intimate, beautiful, and inspired - a poignant masterclass in modern soul.

These qualities are also evident in ‘Song In Seven’, while ‘Full Faith In Providence’ is a late night, confessional, piano ballad, and all the more powerful and haunting for being so bare and elemental

Fever Dreams is ambitious, but an album to admire, rather than fall in love with. Yet, O’Brien’s willingness to never rest on his laurels, and to push himself into new territory, is forever to his credit.

 

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