The duo’s nostalgic Synth-Wave embarks on a journey encompassed by the duality of light and dark.
When it comes to encapsulating the fluctuant range and intensity of emotions experienced throughout the pandemic, I’ve struggled to find an album which truly embodies the turbulence of the past couple of years – that was until I encountered the virtuosity of ‘Fentanyl Flowers’. Across this 40-minute epic, the London based electronic duo unearth not only an undulation, but a tsunami of emotions, which expertly delineate the contours which lie between comfort and pain, love and resentment, and even life and death.
Opening with the ominous ‘Sway’, the duo’s sophomore release commences by propelling the listener into the crux of an Isaac Asimov novel, where the resolute bass loop strives towards a “new beginning”, despite contending with the pendulating synths which serve as a constant reminder of the unwavering forces retracting towards the void. This synth-induced mysticism remains a prevalent theme throughout the record, and is aptly used to portray the darker passages of the album with great potency. This desolation is most prominently felt on the apocalyptical ‘Trigger’, where Mal’s tenuous vocals become consumed by the cloud of distortion induced by the colossal bass – in a manner particularly reminiscent of The XX’s ‘Fantasy’. While dancing “into that great beyond”, the dystopian emanation becomes heightened by the intense ambience which haunts the track like an evil spirit.
These darker chapters reoccur throughout the tracklist, impressively capturing feelings of pain and resentment on tracks like ‘Cheetahre’ – which even goes as far as incorporating industrial elements, with Neil’s prominent kick and pressing hi-hats inducing a sense of mania, which become reinforced through the repeated, pleading lyrics, “I need your love”.
But for each chapter of melancholy, ‘Fentanyl Flowers’ also contains a benevolent counterpart. This presents a dichotomy, both lyrically and sonically, which allows each track to represent somewhat of a new theme – a blank canvas on which the duo expertly paint a range of emotions with their astute synth arrangements and intricate drum patterns, both of which are expertly mixed throughout. This moulds a tracklist which successfully covers an entire range of emotions, from peace to animosity, pleasure to pain, all while adhering to the indietronica-synthwave atmosphere presented on the opening track. Such polarities present feelings which directly contradict each other at times throughout the album, with the coldness of the ‘Sway’ lyrics, “I’m frost, I’m ice”, being replaced by a refrain of “too hot to sleep, too hot to breathe” on ‘Messsix’. As well as reflecting the dispositions explored throughout the album, these dualities seemingly represent the difficulties in finding equilibrium on a journey towards happiness.
At its most tranquil, ‘Fentanyl Flowers’ offers a kaleidoscopic depiction of life. This fulfilment is presented most notably on the delectable ‘Leo’, where the warm synths and groovy bass contribution from Olugbenga Adelekan see the intergalactic sci-fi atmosphere traded for a delicate, soothing sound, offering a sonic depiction of a summer’s evening drive, as also stated in the lyrics “Lets pull the roof off, roof off”. Upon reaching the back end of the album, this sense of calmness becomes amplified, seemingly representing a point of stability. This is experienced particularly on ‘Pike Creek’, a mellow track made intimate by the Ocean synthwaves, which leisurely spill into the closing track, ‘The Other Side’.
These extensive palettes showcase the delicate intricacy of the duo, which sees them intertwine between comprehensive electronic drum patterns, live bass loops and heavily distorted synths. While the majority of tracks abide by a formula designed to penetrate the dancefloor, the nuances existing within the percussion diversify the tracklist, laying the foundation on which the introspective lyricism embraces the direction undertaken on each track.
In just over 40 minutes, ‘Fentanyl Flowers’ encompasses a large scope of emotions, successfully tying them together as one cohesive body of work. Through the subtleties in the production and the reflective lyrics, the London duo proficiently blend these ideas to project meaning onto both the darkness and lambency of life. An astonishing expedition!
Favourite Tracks: Sway, A Possible Maybe, Exposed, Leo, Trigger