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Fog: Ether Teeth

(rating key)

if you like this you'll like: Hood, The Microphones, The Notwist, Kid Koala, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Manitoba, The Books.

REVIEW: Fog: Ether Teeth
6.19.2003 by Sean

Fog: Ether Teeth [Ninja Tune, 2003] (samples)

Three words? creaking wooden turntable

Fog's Ether Teeth is a little like a joke that I don't get. A sincere joke, certainly. A poignant one, even. In Fog's own words it is a "heavy-handed hopeful opus, an urban vaudevillian symphony about birds, war, mystery, jealousy, old tyme dudes and most importantly, L-O-V-E." He's a turntablist of Kid Koala's ilk, one who plays with the form and makes something unexpected out of it. This isn't a difficult album - all the ingredients are laid out plain, the mood and sound quickly grasped - and yet it's almost incomprehensible. Acoustic instruments shimmer and blur alongside singsong samples, orchestral flourishes, outer-space warbles. Fog sings like a folkie - like Kepler's Jon Georkish or Will Oldham - even as the music warps and twists.

And yet as much as I can identify all this, as much as I feel I 'get' what's going on - I don't. I don't understand. I sense a loneliness in the slowpulse of "I Call This Song Old Tyme Dudes," a strident, Microphones-like vision to "No Boys Allowed," but what's the deal with the cut-up foolishness of "What-a-Day Day"? Why are you dashing off the song's title, over and over? What does it mean that guitars and piano weave in and out of these strange songs, a gentle link between misshapen ditties. How should I take the lyrics of "Wallpaper Sink or Swim," murmured over organ surges and squiggly attic-and-cloud noises:
1. So A exclaims "I'll paint the walls red so the blood/bird will match."
2. So B replies "You're full of lies. You know you don't think like that."

Oh I suppose...

We're goats we'll eat tin cans...
We're carp we'll eat tin cans...

The album's beyond me - too strange to affect me, not strange enough to fascinate. It's like the punch-line's not delivered properly, or it's been intentionally muddied. Pretending a hidden meaning automatically becomes a deep one.

Ether Teeth is pretty, and it's hypnotic. But I'm not laughing, or crying, as it moves to its birdsong-and-mumbling close. I'm not sure there's anything there.

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