A Retrospective on Pia Fraus: After Summer (Seksound, 2008)
The last entry in the retrospective series on Pia Fraus is their fourth full-length entitled After Summer. Eve Komp (vocals), Margus Voolpriit (drums), Rein Fuks (guitar, vocals, percussion), Reijo Tagapere (bass), Kärt Ojavee (synth, organ), and Tõnis Kenkmaa (guitar) return here. Special guest performers on the album include Taavi Laatsit (Moog) and Ramo Teder (flute). On Summer After, the experimental moments become far more common as synths become more integrated with the Pia Fraus sound. Even instrumentals enter the mix here, with beautiful moments which sit on the edge of ambient music.
“Spiringster” begins with glistening, warm synths that swell and then give way to strumming guitar and a poppy cadence. The choice of synth sounds here are great, giving the song a whimsical feel. “Yenissey” gets the head bobbing with analog synth notes, deep slightly fuzzed out bass, and addictive percussion. This song is an earworm in all the right ways and I’ve had it on repeat in the past for this very reason. “Sailing Yes” has this beautiful stepping melody that begins the track. This track floats, dreamy, and contagious. At about 2:44, everything changes and a more experimental, ambient piece begins to flow out of this track. It’s just a beautifully meditative moment in the record.
“Doctor Optimism” has deep bass with a beautifully constructed melodic piece of “ah’s” that run throughout. Fuks and Komp sing together here and their voices always work so well in unison. One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gone back through all of these fabulous full-lengths is that, while Nature Heart Software is admittedly my favorite full-length in the catalog, After Summer has my favorite mix on it. This album is just beautifully recorded. “Doctor Optimism” also has beautiful synth sounds that peer through the cracks in expressive melodies while different tones and textures sleek into the mix here and there. The guitar work is also distinctive for a Pia Fraus track, bringing in a different sort of character in the mid-section. “House Eaten” begins with what feels like an electronic set of percussive sounds and then shaker takes over. The guitar tones here are altered and frankly lovely to make room for the brighter synths that dapple the soundscape. This brief interlude just rings out as a subtle piece of instrumental music with only “ah’s” to accompany it.
Now “After Summer”, the titular track, begins as if it is going to be an all-out ambient piece. A gorgeous wind-like synth sound fills the speakers but then percussion and guitar join the mix and the synth sound soars into high tones. An organ joins the mix as well. This is a purely instrumental piece that sits at the center of the album. This leads into “Late Again” which has acoustic guitar strumming over organ, mid-tempo percussion, and subtle bass work. Fuks and Komp lend understated vocals snare occasionally punctuates the pop laden tune with its trills.
“Mute the Birds” is a sedate song, with slowly progressing melodies and incredibly quiet percussion. The bass work here is very much a glue in the piece, giving an under-girding deep tone to the synth work. Throughout this album, spacey sci-fi synths sit alongside more organic sounding pop music and the juxtaposition is just incredibly well executed. That is no different here on “Mute the Birds”. There are moments when synths wake and fill the sonic spaces and others where they sit under the acoustic guitar, warbling and waiting all the while supporting the tracks larger sonic textures.
The penultimate song on After Summer is “Loveloops”. Lathered in dreamy guitars and assorted buzzing, floating synths, “Loveloops” captivates as the chorus gets you moving and the intricacies in the song fascinate. Another departure on this album is the band begins to play with longform songs rather than mostly recording songs that are under the 4-minute mark or much shorter. Another thing that one notices on Pia Fraus albums is there are no bad songs. Deep tracks, sitting at the end of the album, are amazing. “Far Fade Whisper” is no exception. Another mix of acoustic and electric guitar, “Far Fade Whisper” features Fuks’ breathy vocals amid playful melodies that are played on the synth. It’s a glorious ending to their 2008 offering.
Well, that ends the retrospective for now. After Summer brought a great deal to the table and it’s not a surprise that its many Pia Fraus fans’ favorite album. The coming of Field Ceremony has been teased over the last year or so with the releases of “Autumn Winds”, “Cloudy Eyes”, and “That’s Not All”. While “Cloudy Eyes” remains simply a single, the other tracks appear on the new album and are downloadable with the pre-order. My review of Field Ceremony will be coming very soon and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
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