‘DISTORTED SONGS FOR DISTORTED PEOPLE’ delves deep into dark ambient self-exploration

DISTORTED SONGS FOR DISTORTED PEOPLE by FRNGE, is the latest offering from Wet Dreams Recordings; who consistently have been releasing project after project championing the weird and wonderful world of alternative and underground electronic music. Let’s just say the label doesn’t shy away from putting out projects that sonically flip the script on what we tend to hear coming out of the South African electronic scene. Take for example the self-titled EP released last year by SEXXUS under the label which blew me away with its dark dance aesthetic – sounding like it came straight from some dungeon club in a Berlin backstreet. The latest release by FRNGE is no different and as its title would suggest; the project is filled with contorting sounds, unhinged bass dumps and driving synths that delight as much as they disturb.

There’s a lot to love about DISTORTED SONGS FOR DISTORTED PEOPLE, the first being the whole EP’s palatability to a wider audience, while still maintaining a sonic essence that is interestingly different from a lot of what I think to be the copy and paste sounds we hear from our electronic scene. There’s never a sense that any song will fade into drab – as FRNGE layers such an incredible collage of sounds onto each one, grabbing your attention for every second of every song. Immediately the EP opener “SKIN PICKER” comes to mind. The track opens with a contorted flute and horn section that strangely reminded me of the main theme from Interstellar composed by Hans Zimmer, albeit that “SKIN PICKER” sounds like what Zimmer might have composed say he was off of his face on mind-altering substances. Jokes aside though, this opening section drags you in—gently introducing the drums before an ear-catching break and irresistible crashing drum drop.

With my interest firmly peeked “EYES BEHIND UR HEAD“, served as a rather effective intermission, it resamples and repurposes sounds from “SKIN PICKER” to create a very disrupted and slightly disturbing soundscape. It doesn’t really function in the conventional sense where the interlude serves as a palette cleanser or sonic transition but, rather, I think it works extremely well in getting the listener to wonder “what the fuck/hell is coming next?”. What “EYES BEHIND UR HEAD” manages to accomplish is preparing you for the absolutely unrelenting bass you’re about to experience on both “YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL” and lead single “FEVER DREAM“. Both of the tracks incorporate Dub-Tech elements into their layered soundscapes and have interesting little elements woven throughout them. Now, although the darker Dub-Tech elements are a shift away from the more Lo-Fi conventionally ambient work FRNGE produced before this EP; these elements sound super well integrated into his new repertoire. Nothing feels forced or out of place, and that’s probably because it’s not an album made to sound like anything other than the reality FRNGE himself has been living through. Its musical topography is not dark, disruptive or disorientatingly distorted just for the sake of it but, rather, it’s a thoroughly conceptualised sonic manifestation of internal conflict, depressive episodes and changing circumstances.

This EP was like an itch that I’ve been trying to get rid of for a couple of years now, and [I’m] only now finally getting in reach of it on this project. For a good while, I’ve been trying to make something a bit more challenging to proactively try and get out my comfort zone, since I truly believe that’s when some of the best work can be made. The previous depressive episodes and the hometown departure were there as a source of inspiration but I think ‘DISTORTED SONGS FOR DISTORTED PEOPLE’ is the sound of my discomforts and being okay with not everything being perfect. I guess another part of me also thinks that this project is me making some dark treffers out of pure necessity.

That hometown departure is also beautifully captured on FRNGE’s ode to the city he grew up in on the song  011“. A wonderful little closer comprised of voice-notes from some of his closest friends, which in a very short run time conveys so much and portrays a cast of colourful characters quintessentially from Joburg. Although I wouldn’t say it’s just some simple filler, there’s a genuine and absolute sombre sense carried through a lot of the song, particularly due to the backing instrumental making it feel like a rather pained farewell. The track feels like FRNGE is saying farewell not only to Jozi and his friends, but to us as listeners too. However, after listening I don’t feel too distraught because if DISTORTED SONGS FOR DISTORTED PEOPLE is anything to go by, the future is extremely exciting for FRNGE and I’m eagerly waiting to hear more.      

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