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Fast Planet


[Self-released; 2012]

By ; August 7, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Fast Planet is a four-piece from Memphis, Tennessee, that makes music often described as “ambient electronic pop.” With glitchy beats, washes of synths, and processed vocals, they’ve got the “electronic” part of that description down, but as far as the “pop” and “ambient” tags go, they’re not quite there. And it would be hard for anyone to get there considering “pop” and “ambient” are two juxtaposing genres. Can ambient music be catchy? Sure; every kind of music that has fans has to have some sort of hook, even if it is a spaced-out drawl filling up seventeen full minutes. But if pop music can easily become a soothing noise in the background, can it really be considered pop music anymore? The answer would have to be “no”: in the moment where it becomes a background noise, it’s transcended its original genre. Then again, moving seamlessly between genres is something to be admired.

And I suppose Fast Planet do do this in a way, but it’s in a manner that seems to be their failing, if anything. Their debut album, Jes, has hooks, but they don’t stand out. Instead they become part of their surroundings, completing a canvas watercolour of mundane, thoughtful tones. While this makes for a better whole, it also makes for a more easily forgettable whole: Jes is memorable for how well it flows, not for its choruses or riffs.

Actually, there aren’t really any riffs, which is really quite a transformation for the band considering years back they used to chug out pop-rock numbers under the moniker This Is Goodbye. Things that’ll stick in your mind from Jes are the way lead singer Brandon Herrington’s voice is manipulated (“I Want Out”, “Rain Game”), or the way a drum track changes its tempo (“Lost”). While Herrington has a likeable voice, his lyrics don’t amount to much more than vague sentiments about love. On “Columbus” he testifies, “I’ll recreate a reason to forgive you” as a wash of backtracked synths sound like they’re trying to purge his memory, while on “Lost” he muses “I feel pretty certain that the other ship has medical and room to spare/ Do you feel the same, or were we unprepared?” like he’s trying to make sense of his desire to move on with another person. Lyrics like these are all fine and well, but they’re wrapped in a bit too much ambiguity to real have any kind of emotional pull. Even the album’s most open and honest track, “I Want Out,” struggles to portray the actual struggle of someone caught in a relationship they seek to escape.

There are tracks here that are better than others – the aforementioned “Columbus”, the admirably well executed Kyle Bobby Dunn-esque “1978” – but they hit their mark best when put in the context of the rest of the album. Again, it all goes back to the flow: the transition between each track helps it feel like it’s part of something bigger, while also making the ebb and flow of songs more effective.

In terms of comparisons to other artists, Fast Planet recall the likes of The New Division with their stuttering and tense drum tracks (see “Lost”, which doesn’t quite morph into the bigger creature you’d like it to), and I’m pretty sure plenty of people will point out a likeness to The Postal Service. But funnily enough I’m constantly reminded of Malcom Lacey (aka Arrange) when I listen to Jes, what with all the attempts to convey emotional anguish over electronic backdrops. What makes it an amusing comparison is that Lacey alone manages to do better what the four guys in Fast Planet have tried to capture on Jes. That could just be a matter of experience, though: Lacey is a productive artist who devotes himself to his style, while Jes is the first electronic outing for Fast Planet. Given a bit of time, they could produce something with a clearer emotional hook.


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