It has been three years since the advent of Fenech-Soler’s self-titled début album. Three years is by no means a long time in music-land these days, and whilst the spectre of perceived ‘difficult second albums’ haunts many – for example, the band’s contemporaries Delphic who, in trying to shake up their sound, were met with a lukewarm response by critics.
Fenech-Soler, too, have tried to shake up their repertoire with their second album, Rituals. Almost immediately, the difference is palpable; gone are the jagged, oft buzzing synths and instead in their place sits richly textured electronics. Rituals opens with Youth, a song that confidently announces that Fenech-Soler have changed in their time spent in their laboratory conjuring up experiments, the lush synths and rolling drums combining impressively to create an intriguing and exotic sound. Last year’s All I Know shakes the listener awake with its opposing laser-beam synths and punchy beat, the ante having most definitely been upped in regards to pop sensibilities. There are numerous songs on Rituals that – surprisingly – could be top 10 chart material, which is no doubt an exciting prospect in anyone’s book however, this can be analysed in two opposing ways.
It could easily be argued that in growing their sound that the band have, in fact, regressed in regards to song maturity. In regards to the aforementioned All I Know, it could easily be a single taken from any current boyband’s album, and whilst massive choruses are definitely spectacular in a live setting, the pounding beat mimicked in so many chart songs of today make it feel cheap and somewhat juvenile. In Our Blood however, is an entirely different matter, for this is what pop songs are about. It is far more mature than its predecessor, and glitters sublimely before hitting the listener with a totally addictive chorus and could easily be a high contender for a future single.
The entire contents of Rituals can be divided into the two veins as mentioned above, Last Forever especially (lyric: ‘We can make this last forever, we can waste time together’) being syrupy enough to cause a sugar induced toothache, whilst the band’s experimentations succeed in songs such as Somebody and Fading, the former possessing a rather dirty, hollow sounding bass, whilst the latter slowly grows to quite epic proportions. This is the essence of the exotic merging with technology.
The album itself is interspersed with the two interludes of Ritual I and Ritual II, acting as two halves of a whole, with both being ethereal sounding and laced with whimsical vocals, however it is Two Cities which stands out in its subtlety, rippling with almost sombre emotion, yearning for a lost love.
By the time you have reached the end of Rituals, you’ll have realised that Fenech-Soler are a smart band, one that hooks a casual listener in with a big chorus but can back up their initial poppiness with the layering of textured electronic sounds, resulting in efforts more accomplished than their initial singles. Rituals feels like a complete body of work, more than simply a collection of songs, one which – though definitely different than its self-titled predecessor – can sit comfortably alongside it as addictive pop that even music snobs won’t be able to resist.