by Allison Kridle
At first listen the New York City quintet, Big French, seems simple. They are like a kaleidoscope. From a distance the five piece appear to be a run of the mill lo-fi band, but their sound comes with great perplexity that will have you contemplating every music genre or category ever formulated. They morph various puzzle pieces and opposing shapes of different sizes and colors to create a composite image. An image full of shimmering movement and color--one in which you see and hear countless forms.
Following their 2013 LP Downtown Runnin that blazed with masterful synths, screeching guitars, and jingle-jangle, their new LP Stone Fish doesn’t stray far from their experimental vibes. They kick off the album with “Hey Grandma,” a daze of a song if there ever was one. Contrary to Quentin Moore’s ringed-out falsetto heard throughout Downtown Runnin, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist brings it down a bit. Still exercising his glassy high-pitch, it is drenched in nostalgia, almost like a black and white photograph. A disconnected beat and a tender wailing guitar surround Moore as he addresses his deceased grandma. “Hey Grandma, are you being there or are you there?”
While the layered and quiet tracks “Hey Grandma” and “Fly Like a Bird” run similar to a pour of molasses, it’s the punchier tracks like “Stone Fish” and “Grandpa’s House,” where they incorporate the fingers to fret effect and randomized chord progressions that show off their math rock flair. The shortest track, “Word’s Appear,” is a cross fire of varying instrumentals. Timed quite nicely yet appearing out of nowhere are sparkling synths, cymbal clashes, a melodramatic bass, something that sounds like a cartoon gym whistle, and a screeching guitar drives the song to an abrupt stop. It’s a flash of lightning that leaves a nice trail of smoke.
Big French certainly hits the places you thought were impossible, especially musically. Throughout Stone Fish you see and experience a whole other world that was always there, but was buried under the constraints of certain labels and genres, a tradition that isn’t easy to let go of. But in the meantime, we can just keep calling Big French a kaleidoscope.