The Fontanelles – Horns Of Freedom (First Word)
LP/ CD/ DL
Afrobeat fusion band, The Fontanelles, unleash their debut album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates has a listen.
Ever wondered what a PigBag/James Brown/Los Chinches supergroup would sound like? No, me neither, but if you ever do find yourself awake at night pondering that thought, then give The Fontanelles a listen and your curiosity will be quenched.
Formed as the backing band for Fela! The Musical when it was on its London stint, the ten-piece’s relationship and natural chemistry demanded that they stay together and carry on performing – thankfully.
The Fontanelles have certainly created a great sound – mixing ska, jazz and reggae on an afrobeat base. The energy is high and the musicianship superb.
Album opener, Gaia’s Revenge, blasts the album straight into view with its clear jazz influences, and the horns – so prevalent throughout the album – are powerful and precise. Afrocat incorprates touches of dub and continues the furious pace.
The recent single, Criminality, introduces American funk influences and again the horn sound and instrumentation is frenetic. To see The Fontanelles live must be an experience to behold.
The tempo slows down to a sleepy groove for The Wave and Project 31 before picking up again for the title track and album closer.
It’s nice to hear a non-vocal album that never gets boring and Horns Of Freedom remains interesting and engaging to the end. If there’s a downside, it’s that there are just eight tracks, but given the quality on show it’s an inconsequential fact that’s easily overlooked.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.
“There a few things better in this world than music made purely for the love of making music, it’s even better than the moment at a festival when you find an extra beer token. So; any band formed for a musical, Fela! The Musical to be precise, that couldn’t stop playing together after the show’s run has to be good.
The end result is the reggae, ethio-jazz ska and afrobeat inspired The Fontanelles and their debut album Horns of Freedom. Over eight tracks The Fontanelles create vibrant and soulful music. The first slice of The Fonantelles comes in the form of Gaia’s Revenge. Beginning in a cacophony of sound an afrobeat edge soon emerges clear of the cloud, punctuated by trumpets and goes on to do very nice things to your insides. As it goes on Gaia’s Revenge is given added warmth and soul by an extra toasty bass line and some charismatic guitar. The up-tempo track comes to a sudden stop but not before it’s taken possession of your body.
Gaia’s Revenge is followed by the infectious Afrocat. Lively reggae is added to by soaring trumpets and a little trombone. Swept along on this flow of joyful and bright sound you’ll once again find parts of your body moving with out your permission. A big and boisterous slice of afrobeat, sultry trumpets take over lead duties as Afrocat flows on before ending on one little flourish.
One thing that runs across Horns of Freedom is the union of sounds, and there are a lot of them. None of them compete however – they all come together to create music that seeps into your skin like a hot shower on a winters morning. Admittedly any shower soundtracked by Gaia’s Revenge or Afrocat would be a lively one but tracks such as Project 31, with it’s mid-tempo groove carry you off gently on a wave of docile trumpets and warm reggae vibes. The same can be said of Too Big with it’s more subtle sound – but still equally full of soul and rhythm.
The track Pinprick has a purposeful and driven arrangement of percussion as dramatic brass reaches out across the sound waves. Perhaps reflecting on the origins of this collective, a sense of theater can also be found in The Wave. Carrying a processional atmosphere this slow but comforting track manages to maintain its processional feel whilst also letting low-key sax and trumpet solos dance over it.
The title track Horns of Freedom ends The Fontanelle’s debut album. In no way a quiet closer, Horns of Freedom with it’s bold and triumphant sound leaves you quite possibly dancing and firmly in the mood for more. Strong drumming underpins this lively and creative track as the band celebrates above it. For all of this my personal favourite is Criminality. The Fontanelles show how infectious and tropical they can be as a deep and groove laden bass line interacts with afrobeat drums with and bright brass.
The Fontanelles have created an often big and bold album with moments of relaxation and mellowness. They have created an album which always sounds alive and playful. Music made for the love of music is impossible to fake and refreshing to hear. Give it a try!”