Many will make comparisons in regards to Minneapolis’ Father You See Queen. Dozens come to mind upon first listens… Massive Attack, Portishead, Björk to name a couple of the bigger ones. It has to do with the electronics, the song structures, and the voice. But Father You See Queen is good enough, and important enough, to the point that we need to make sure we talk about them in terms of themselves: what they are, what it is they specifically do, and why it is they are so good at it. The duo consists of a dude called Makr (or Mark McGee, formerly of To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie) and a dudette called Mona (who’s real name is Nicole Tollefson). Makr provides the beats/noise/atmospheres/accompaniments, and Mona… well, she sings. Beautifully. She does other things besides sing, but also, this is important: She sings.
The first thing you’ll notice about the band is how well the two work together, each weaving his/her own individual tapestry with their instruments, then interweaving those tapestries together into murals of beautiful songs. Song structures don’t follow verse/chorus/bridge structures so much as they build on themes over time—this is modal music. These builds are executed in such a natural way for the band, each track piling on effects, polyrhythms, noise, voices, melodies, harmonies, brilliantly paced to slowly arrive at thrilling climaxes. Though there are things like bass tones and guitars present, you get the sense that the band is really about two things: rhythm and voice. Some tracks feel like they are carried by these elements alone, the two elements each intertwining themselves into complex and very full arrangements with little else to support. Take “Don’t Be Mad at Me,” which only has one harmonic element to it aside from the vocals, a single guitar that oscillates back and forth between two notes. Otherwise, this brooding, blossoming work of pure inertia is driven by the percussion and voice(s) alone.
Mona’s soprano is so haunting and alluring. Words like “Flesh” and “Bones” in standout track “Teratoma” cut through like a knife, instant spine-chills. Meanwhile “We Give And Give And You Take And Take And Take And Take” offers her vocals up to a calming lullaby. Makr is responsible for the rhythmic elements, which appear both in sequenced beats as well as live drumming takes from some guests. The live drumming really makes this thing happen, excellently performed and recorded into powerful passages of open-snared drums and thunderous crash cymbals, skillfully edited against scathing noise blasts and jittery electronic beats. The one (and only) track I’m critical of is the final number, “Edmund.” This feels like their version of “Deep Water” off Portishead’s Third. It’s a nice enough tune, and really shows off Mona’s jazz chops with her voice. But with the radically different song style from the rest of the record, the rhythmic elements (which mirror what’s heard elsewhere on the album) feel forced and unnecessary here—this might have been better off kept stripped back a bit. Still, it’s a nice tune and makes sense as a closer to an otherwise very consistently composed group of songs. “47″ marks one of the more seasoned introductions to a band I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in 2012, and I’m anxiously awaiting more material.