Emptied Animal is aural dynamite, a largely high-octane listen that flashes by in a blur. Almost at once, humid vocals flutter in on the strings, carrying with it a kind scent of strange passion. Its psychedelic inclinations initially throw the listener for a loop, but once tuned into the music it’s a sensational listen.
Based in the Bay Area, William Ryan Fritch’s debut is a surreal trip. The EP is a generous treat and helps acclimatize the ear for things to come – notably Fritch’s upcoming LP, Leave Me Like You Found Me. It’s a strange campfire where smoky guitars and hazy, fiery vocals snap in the pine scented air, and what was once the carcass of a strange beast now litters the leafy wood with its ruined skeleton. Its sweet and sour aroma hangs in the air, spiced with the pungent burning of October’s leaves. In reality, the tentative petals that cry of spring should be shooting up and peeking out.
As unconventional as it may seem, Emptied Animal consists of the familiar, taking popular instruments but inserting them all at once. It’s an uninhibited carnival of sound, one that we haven’t really heard before. Sure, the instruments are well known and understood, but in this context the music is a native language. The sounds are varied, packed together, but what really leaves an impression is the fact that every sound was played live, recorded and then mixed by Fritch himself. It must have been a painstaking process, and this in turn shines a strong light on Fritch’s personality and his dedication to the music. There are no cut corners here. Indeed, every second seems to pound with fiery purpose, inflammable intensity and explosive confidence.
‘Late Blooms’, with its soaring vocal and swooping string section, is pure theatre. Yet it stays in the bright and uplifting vicinity, even though the weight of the strings tries to tug it down into the shadows. Fritch isn’t afraid to try something different and while it’s definitely out of the box, it’s also inviting.
There are times when the music seems a little unhinged with a sudden cry or a smash of the cymbal; the sound of the tropical beast that can’t really be tamed.
Sometimes, instruments lie on top of one another; the space is cramped but, because of the structure, it never feels claustrophobic or confined. The pop-favoured format of verse, chorus and verse is here, despite the illusion; the music is determined to tell you otherwise. Through the haze of instrumental smoke, it’s possible to just make out where the music might go next if you stick closely to the vocal. Sometimes, the vocal drops out, as on ‘Our Unsettled Shapes’. Suddenly, we are in trouble, lost in the instrumental debris. The notes are white hot embers rising up out of the fire. The drums clash and smack together, but they camouflage in the air like daytime fireworks. In other areas, the thumping drumming disappears, leaving the door open for an ethereal, ancient chant.
The instrumentals that make up the remainder help the listener hone in on the blazing textures, and it’s plain to see that the music is just as strong, even without the presence of the vocal. Quieter, secluded moments act as a shield, away from the warfare. The acoustic version of ‘Late Blooms’ and the relatively serene ‘Lowered Expectations’ are both beautiful pieces of music in their own right. The latter starts off with a smooth drone, over which the strings sway like a hammock tied to a palm tree. Acoustic guitar melodies flirt with the gentle percussion, which is no louder than the bat of an eyelash, and the sound of the fingers squeaking and sliding over the fretboard is reassuringly authentic.
To say that the multi-instrumentalist is talented is an understatement, yet talent is nothing without emotion, sensitivity and touch. Fortunately, Fritch ticks off all of the aforementioned qualities. Beach House were right – it’s a strange paradise.