For a fledgling band, a short EP – certainly your second one in the space of a year – has to sound larger than it actually is, more full of life and ideas than its size initially suggests. In other words, it’s an intense showcase. On Wading, Francis of Delirium go some way to achieving that, the four songs on the EP fizzing with promise and occasional virtuosity.
The duo are Jana Bahrich and Chris Hewett, based in the musical hotbed of Luxembourg. A staggering age gap exists between the pair – Bahrich is just 19 and Hewett is a few decades her senior – but it seems to work in their favour. They meld generational genres with ease, hints of 90s grunge, 00s Avril Lavigne-esque angst, and 10s emo-pop being notable. In the few moments where the intensity of Bahrich’s emotional outbursts threaten to overflow, Hewett is an assured presence on the drums, reducing the tempo when it’s required.
The songwriting captures Bahrich as a Woman on the Verge of Post-Adolescence. Where songs from last year’s debut EP like “Karen” (“She wants you to go suburban / Raise five kids and stop pursuing everything”) and “Equality Song” (“Sometimes it feels like a fact of life / You’re born, get your period and you’ll get raped sometime”) were acidic in their youthful fervour, on this EP Bahrich is wading in more uncertain, choppier waters. “Now we’re stuck in this motion / Sifting through the floating garbage / And we’re lost,” is her sighed musing on the opener “Lakes”. “Cause every second is a moment I’m fighting within every part of me” is another acknowledgment of her complex personal conflict found in “Red”.
The production is more muscular and cohesive than it was on their previous EP, All Change. Superb lulling and layered harmonies flutter through the songs, whispered de-escalations whenever Bahrich sounds exhausted by the swell of emotions that she’s just poured out. “Red” is the standout, its accelerating rhythm portraying the catchiest and lightest melody on the EP.
The closing song “I Think I’m Losing” starts sombre and quieter than what preceded it, before a storm is ushered in again, Bahrich crying the titular chorus. Her performative touches like this are impressive throughout Wading. She sounds born to front a band like Francis of Delirium, carrying the raw honesty with a self-aware maturity. The anguished cries are always reined in, her fierce sing-speak delivery always checked so as to reflect the uncertainty of her feelings.
To return to the opening line of this review: Wading does what it has to do and it will undoubtedly open Francis of Delirium up to an expanded audience. What’s key and fascinating is to see how they will fare unfurling this bottled potential into a full studio album. Certainly Bahrich has the intriguing vocal touches and skilled lyrical acumen to achieve something special.