Siamese Fighting Fish

Breathe:See:Move

Written by: TL on 06/08/2012 01:36:40

It's only been about a year and a half since Danish underground rockers Siamese Fighting Fish took their first major step out of obscurity with the release of their debut LP "We Are The Sound", yet when they drop the follow-up "Breathe:See:Move" in less than two weeks, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the band is moving so swiftly, recognising that these days it is imperative for ambitious artists to always do what they can to stay relevant. It should come as no surprise because listening to the record, one hears that here is indeed a band with a serious and elaborate ambition. An ambition to disrupt the conservative notion - one that is especially dominant in Denmark - that music that is wild or heavy can only be appreciated in underground venues by niche audiences.

This is not exactly news on "Breathe:See:Move" though. Since their beginning, SIFIFI have made their name mixing things that should not mix, such as heavy guitar riffs, funky rhythms, soulful melodic singing and delicate violin melodies. On this new album then, we continue to see three main forces at play: SIFIFI when they are heavy and letting themselves be inspired by metal and post-hardcore, SIFIFI when they are wild and experimental and letting themselves be inspired by more progressive acts, and finally SIFIFI when they are poppy and forthcoming, wanting to connect with people through danceable passages and traditional dramatic balladry.

While SIFIFI clearly want all these things however, what is most clear on "Breathe:See:Move" is that above all else they want to combine these ideas in ways that can break barriers and allow for wider audiences to appreciate the absolute most of the band's highly unique sound. This much you can hear in the full, smooth production the band has cooked up at Vibe Factory, which sounds a good deal better than the slightly dodgy one that plagued the band's debut album. Moreover, you can hear it in the songwriting which, having matured and become a good deal more positive, sees SIFIFI in a more focused and forthcoming place than ever before.

It must be admitted that this shameless attempt at winning some attention from the often narrow-minded Danish mainstream works as a dual-edged sword for the band. Firstly, while the production on "Breathe:See:Move" has got considerably more low end punch than "We Are The Sound" had, fans used to seeing the band live will still miss the full weight and crunch of the heavier elements. Furthermore, music nerds like myself will regret the overall soundscape getting less busy, with each part of the new songs given good time to be noticed, rather than things flying at you in the youthful, rapid-fire manner which characterised the best of the band's early work. And while especially the slower, grander songs - of which there is a handful on this album - will likely appear 'big rock' enough in structure to allow more casual rock fans to feel at home and gain interest in the band, to my ears they are among the most inconsistent and unspectacular material the band has composed in a while.

The good news is that even in these moments of "Breathe:See:Move" when there's the most reason to feel discouraged, SIFIFI show flashes of quality and creativity that eventually make things end up worthwhile. Even slow burners like "Give In", "How Long Will It Take" and "Yes Say No" prove to have moderately catchy refrains after a few listens, and the latter two provide further justification for their inclusion with respectively a mesmerising, multi-track violin arrangement for an outro and some poppy guest vocals from singer Siri Hollmén Olesen that will surely surprise you when they come around. And those are far from the highlights. The highlights come, at least if you ask me, when SIFIFI are at their rhythmic, tempo-changing wildest, in songs like "Crap Is The New Black", "Party Like Charlie Sheen" and "The World Might Have Seen Better Days". I dig the spastic bursts of the former, and I dig the way it sees the lead guitar eventually become locked in a solo duel with the strings of new violinist Christian Hjort Lauritzen. And even while I think the title and samples of "... Charlie Sheen" can be seen as gimmicks that are already dated, I can't help but appreciate the brazenness of making someone like Sheen the figurehead of a song about refusing to become a square just because one is growing older. What I dig the most about this album however, is the uplifting call to optimism that is "The World Might Have Seen Better Days", which combines a cool, almost Dredg-ish atmospheric verse with jumps to both choruses and bridge whose electrifying rhythms should make anyone want to lose it completely. Finally one almost forgets the epic "A Liar Cried Wolf", just because it has been out for a while on the band's most recent EP, yet doing so would be a unfair, because the song is clearly one of the most coherent and most sweeping numbers the band has written to date, and the new recording does absolutely nothing to detract from it.

As for the tracks that remain, opener "H.A.U.T." is decent, but it gets forgotten a bit too easily when the album reaches its best in the three numbers that follow. Meanwhile heavy songs like "Don't Try This Alone" and "Scarred By Omen" also feel like they appear in less than maximum power, as the heavy guitar riffs they rely on do not come through the slick production with quite the necessary meanness, and "Discodad" seems messy, with its cheeky, danceable verses and chaotic outro tied poorly together by a forgetable chorus. These songs, along with cynical thoughts about the oddness of the chosen running order, and about how the songs could possibly have been named better - are among the things that tell me that despite SIFIFI's ambitious development, the band stills has things to learn before positioning themselves solidly as the established musical force they no doubt hope to be.

Come grading time, I'm eventually split between two overall considerations that sit in opposition to each other. On one hand, song for song, I just don't think "Breathe:See:Move" is as strong song for song, or idea for idea - as "We Are The Sound" was, which could be because a band always has trouble appearing as fresh on their second effort, or it could be because 1½ years is actually a pretty short span to come up with enough great ideas to one-up a strong debut. On the other hand, as an album "Breathe:See:Move" does not just sound much more complete and coherent than "We Are The Sound" did, it is also a unique and potentially important album for the Danish rock scene, for the way it aims a much, much needed salvo at the archaic conventions that restrict this country's music scene. This abstract quality, as well as the record's fine production and the fact that SIFIFI are still one of the most unique sounding bands around, go a long way towards making up for the dullest moments in "Discodad" and "How Long Will It Take" though. So when I eventually balance my imaginary scales, I see no other course than to once again award SIFIFI with a highly respectable and recommendable:

8

Download: The World Might Have Seen Better Days, Crap Is The New Black, A Liar Cried Wolf, Party Like Charlie Sheen,
For The Fans Of: Chiodos (on "Illuminaudio"), Incubus, Agent Fresco,
Listen: facebook.com/sififi

Release Date 18.08.2012
Mighty Music

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