October 21, 2021 (published)
Fabels, the Australian dream-pop group, have mastered the latter. On their latest record Minds, duo Hiske Weijers and Ben Aylward put their time discipline to good use by creating hypnotic grooves and sitting in them like meditation. As well as creating somber and enchanting soundscapes, the duo also swap vocal duties with Weijers Earth Mother’s paegan incantations and Aylward’s chilling trip-hop refrains. The concoction turns it into a work of art that massages the brain while tapping into deeply primal sensations. Countless bands attempt to make dark music, often reiterating the same basic ideas that Black Sabbath trotted out in 1969. Mental cracks open a portal to new musical ideas that quiver with the plot of the unknown.
The journey begins with the warm, bright tones of a children’s song. On ‘Open’, Weijers enters with softly sung words, eventually rising to Jehnny Beth’s assured timbre in her solo work. The guitar slowly grows into overdrive then drops back into soothing drones as Weijers and Ayland exchange bedtime whispers. The track serves as an intro to “ShereKhan”, the disc’s most stunning sonic achievement. Painted on a canvas of upside-down instrumentation, Fabels builds a masterpiece brick by brick. Lingering guitar chords are sensually danced by a bass line that floats clouds in steady descending tones. Aylward takes the front lines as the tenor version of Brendan Perry to Weijers’ exotic Lisa Gerrard. The first of many favorable comparisons to fellow Aussies Dead Can Dance. As Weijers’ mythical reflections develop, waves of distortion overwhelm the sound field and recede. It’s definitely an album that dazzles on headphones. Not since Massive Attack has a band been able to trance your mind so effectively in this way.
As the album progresses, pockets of light and dark appear and disappear. “Waiting” glides like a rowing ship heading into battle under cover of darkness. The dull but present drums pierce the nocturnal aura of Aylward’s guitars. Weijers whispers ominously into the ether. Layers of otherworldly reverb sound are stacked like a shoegaze. The duo creates a low-voiced scream.
The 10-minute opus of the album “Hinsaw” presents the band at its most eccentric. Previously restrained voices are now turning to theatrical spoken drama and wild sounds. With the ethos of a Robert Eggers film score, Fabels fully embodies the aesthetic of supernatural horror soundtrack. Weijers goes free illustrating a maniacal dichotomy between the child’s voice and the witch’s spell. The synths are deeply unsettling yet distant, like the ever-present menace in the deep dark forest. Terrifying and beautifully cinematic.
The title track occupies the penultimate spot, providing the album’s enduring final statement. On a ceremonial hand drum, Weijers delivers staccato vocalizations much like Carina Round, from the idiosyncratic punctuations of Puscifer to the crooning vocals of Maynard James Keenan. Breathless cooing is accompanied by synth panpipes as Aylward guides the track toward the horizon with a closing Floyd-esque existential proclamation.
Minds is wildly creative, intensely beautiful, brilliantly crafted and deeply seductive. Fabels inhabits the mind of a witch, conjuring up images and emotions from deep within and spreading them across the canvas of a record. A mystical listening that will leave you speechless.