Friday, 23 November 2012

Richmond Fontaine - The High Country

A novel idea. Portland, Oregon four-piece release dramatic song-cycle for their tenth studio album.

We're constantly hearing about the death of the album as an art form, or about how people's attention spans are somehow shorter due to the prevalence of shuffle culture. Reassuring then to be presented with an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish. For their tenth studio album Richmond Fontaine have opted to make a song-novel. Part love story, part mystery, part thriller, the tale is set among a remote rural logging community in Oregon. The main characters are a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage and dead-end job at an auto-parts store, and a mechanic who returns to the area to look after his ailing father. The pair fall in love and conspire to leave and find a better lives for themselves. Nothing is ever going to be so simple though as other characters enter the tale, including speed addicted ex-army psychotic and a drug dealing bar owner. 

Click over the jump for more on The High Country.
The band's frontman Willy Vlautin is no stranger to storytelling. He is in fact a published novelist whose 2006 debut The Motel Life has recently made the transition to the big screen. The sense of claustrophobic isolation is conveyed with tremendous effect and the fact that you're made to care about the welfare of the two lovers is a mark of how skilled a storyteller Vlautin is. You can't help feeling it's only a matter of time before this story also gets the transferred to the cinema.

The song titles read like chapter headings - “The Girl On The Logging Road”, “The Mechanic's Life”, “Claude Murray's Breakdown”, “Driving Back To The Chainsaw Sea”, and are musically as diverse as the characters in the story. The music ranges from sparse acoustic ballads, moody scene-setting instrumentals, garage rock to frenzied electric Americana, sympathetically matching the mood and setting of the story. You can almost hear the chainsaws in the distance, and feel the dampness of constant light rain in the air. Interspersed with the music are snatches of dialogue, radio broadcasts, all helping to draw you in to the story. It's difficult not to listen to the whole album in one sitting.

Ahead of the albums release there's to be a limited 7” featuring two tracks from the album along with an unreleased track. The single comes with packaged with a beer mat, a sticker for KSAW logging radio and a hand-written lyric sheet. The band will be performing in entirety both The High Country and previous album Post To Wire on their UK tour throughout September.

Click here for Richmond Fontaine's website.