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Fool's Gold

Album Review by John Powell

Fools Gold | Angelica-Music

From the underground music scene of Los Angeles, combo platter rockers Fool's Gold brew a sound any surfer would love to listen to on the way to the beach. Their 2009 self-titled debut has a twelve-person line-up including multiple forms of percussion and dual alto and tenor saxophones. The album is a wallop of sound. Heavy on groove, the songs are layered from the bass and drums upward, giving an overall Afrobeat feel, but intertwined are Middle

Eastern melodies and percussive undertones.

For a premier album, Fool's Gold has wonderful production. The mixing is ideal, despite Luke Top’s often purposefully mumbled lead vocals. He can be heard well and clear, something other bigger name mumblers like REM can’t even brag about. When you’re supposed to hear him, you can, and when the saxes plays you sure can hear them. Lewis Pesacov’s guitar trickles glide along the speakers. Though there is a lot going on in each song instrumentally, the ear can pick out each part, even the organic handclaps on “Ha Dvash”.

Top is a bilingual optimist, singing in both English and Hebrew; he claims, “The world is not deaf/the world is not stupid/the world is not scared/the world is not burning.” (“The World is All There is”.) All songs come complete with a catchy melody, repetitive lyrics to sing along with, several explosive guitar licks from Pesacov, and a sense of a tribal heart beating, a humble sound, and something characteristic of their Californian laid-back attitudes.

Beginning with “Surprise Hotel”, a song North Carolina jammers Toubab Krewe could cover with ease (minus the lyrics), Fool's Gold leaps into the energy with doubled-up guitar riffs and rolling drums that jam on for a minute and a half before the singing comes in. In a strange flip of the norm, Fool's Gold starts their album with their longest song, at almost seven minutes, but this is merely because “Surprise Hotel” draws from all their influences and showcases the collective’s capability, a sort of, “Yeah, this is what we do,” welcoming.

With no shortage of instrumental melodies, such as the rise and fall synth bop on “Poseidon”, the album is definitely meant as music to dance to or play while setting up volleyball nets or firing up the grill. There’s no need to sit and listen intently, unless you are interested in their layering genius, for one because you likely don’t speak Hebrew, and secondly because you’re supposed to be feeling this sunny-day soundtrack deep inside your chest.

The second track, the standout on the album, is “Nadine”, beginning with a bass line like a train in motion and a sax/guitar riff that at first builds the melody and then peaks with a squiggly sound like the two instruments are laughing. Then Top sings, “Nadine/Don’t bare your world to me,” before leaping into Hebrew with, “Why must we halt when there is so much beyond the border?” There are only thirty-nine words in the whole song, repeated with more earnestness each time. The effect is sensual and provocative. Meanwhile, Orpheo Mccord and Salvador Placencia trick the ear into believing several songs are happening at once with their percussion polyrhythm. It’s a beautiful track, so catchy it’ll itch.

On tracks like “Yam Lo Moshech”, Fool's Gold reveal their love of synth keys and pop drum stammers from Amir Kenan and Garrett Ray, but although the amount of such sounds should make the record cheesy, conversely it is addicting and not overdone, due, I think, in part by the mixing, but also with the simplicity of the layers.

Throughout Fool's Gold you often wonder what you're hearing: A guitar? Drums? “Oohs” and “ahhs”? Guitar number one or guitar number two? But that’s half the delight. It’s a romance of instrumentation, a celebration of the group’s multi-cultural heritage and passion, South African, Euro-pop, Californian rock, jam music, and possibly extra terrestrial orchestration only Fool's Gold has heard about.

The fault may be the “Nadine (Acid Girls the Vibes are Free Bromix)” and “Poseidon (Sizzla’s Judgment Yard Dub Version)”, the final two “bonus” tracks on the album. The first, a dancehall version of “Nadine”, torments the beautiful elation of the original I’m so adamant about, looping and swirling the instrument tracks. Meant for a club, but falling short of the band’s excellence.

Sizzla’s Judgment Yard Dub Version proves only that “Poseidon” is not a dub or roots song, and definitely not in need of bad skanking over the original’s supreme Middle Eastern groove.

Disregarding these remixes, however, as they count as exactly that- remixes- Fool's Gold is eight tracks from a collective of highly intelligent, self-aware friends. The album even credits Pasacov for recording and engineering. The truth is that they clearly had an enjoyable time making this record and you will clearly have a good time playing off that vibe.

When you recommend this album, and people ask, “What kind of music is it?” you’ll reply, “Uuuummmmm,” but you’ll catch yourself, saying, “Just listen to it.”

That’s what Fool's Gold would want: just listen to it.

Purchase Fool's Gold from iamsound Records


 

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