Entropy Begins at Home
he relationship you have with an album as a music writer is an odd and varied thing. Take this record: Tim Shiel, an Australian recently relocated to London, e-mailed me about six weeks ago saying he’d had some radio play on certain programs under his musical alter ego Faux Pas, explaining roughly what he sounded like, and asking if I’d be interested in listening to his record. I thought “What the hell?” and forwarded him my address, asking if he’d send me a full CD copy of it rather than MP3s, because I’d rather hear it properly. Sure enough, a couple of days later it arrived, and I put it in a pile of stuff deemed “interesting.”
Most unsolicited promos get very short shrift: if you send me a tatty CD-R in a paper case with a scrap of paper and a hand-written note, I’ll assume you don’t care enough about what you’re doing to be worth listening to. Faux Pas is a total cottage industry—one guy recording, pressing and releasing his own music—and it’s an example of how to do it right from the bottom up.
Because the joy is that Entropy Begins at Home is actually really good. Shiel mines a seam of sample-based electronica that’s not a million miles away from the likes of Four Tet and Caribou. Production-wise, beats are funky without being over-eager (there’s a deft avoidance of Fatboy Slim-esque idiocy), bass is deep and resonant, treble details pin-point sharp and intriguing, meaning that even though Entropy Begins At Home was put together on a computer, it still sounds more realistic than innumerable recent rock and indie albums.
In his initial e-mail Shiel described his record as being “a mish-mash of afrobeat, jazz, psyche, folk, Casio, and home-recorded guitars,” and it’s difficult to think of a better, more succinct way to put it. The tapestry of instrumental samples he utilizes is rich, tuneful, and sensibly deployed. It's whimsical—and occasionally cerebral—without the sense of fussy isolationism that makes a lot of "folktronica" slightly stand-offish. If anything, Shiel has more in common with hip-hop in terms of his willingness to interpolate a diverse array of genres into a singular vision.
An array of grasshopper-like treble percussion opens “Tema De Cristina,” before being overtaken by more solid beats (reminding slightly of “Like I Love You,” bizarrely), the tune gathers momentum until it reaches a heady climax, pauses, and then reaches it again, more excitingly, by way of flute, organ, guitar, and sundry other sampled instruments. “Apra” is redolent of the more effective vocal tracks from DJ Shadow’s Private Press, while “For the Trees” is a layered guitar symphony with more sections than an insect’s abdomen, and “The New Underground” devolves (or evolves, depending how you look at these things) into shocking, looped free-jazz squalls.
Essentially it’s a psychedelic experience, a musical alchemy intended to depict vivid colors and bizarre patterns, euphoria through altered states of consciousness, and the clarity and directness with which Faux Pas juxtaposes and moves through different strands of music heightens the experience. It’s also, and this is the key part, incredibly pleasurable to listen to, in almost any circumstance.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2006-08-24