Plumbiferous Media

Three Fact Fader – Engineers

Jul 12th 2009
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Three Fact Fader - EngineersEngineers
Three Fact Fader
Score: 68

Engineers, a four-man band from London influenced by a range of music from electronic to shoegaze, began releasing music in 2004 with an EP, Folly, and followed that up six months later with their first, self-titled LP, which was well received. Their newest LP, Three Fact Fader, released July 6th, demonstrates their creativity and skill as they continue to evolve – though it lacks variation.

Throughout Three Fact Fader, Simon Phipps’s voice is expertly woven into the music. Simultaneously delicate and deep, Phipps’s voice imparts an unearthly aesthetic to the music. The lofty sound, which distinguishes Three Fact Fader, creates an extremely well-designed, multi-layered album, within which the vocals serve as much more than a single stratum. It’s not only the layering of vocal lines on tracks like “Sometimes I Realise” that creates this effect, but also the shifting style of the vocals, which creates a fluid experience.

Engineers employs a number of instrumental techniques to create the constant sound that it strives to attain. While certain instruments are not always used successfully, such as the well played but overzealous drum line of “Crawl from the Wreckage,” or the string sound that doesn’t quite fit the end of “Helped by Science?,” Engineers generally fits instrumental lines into the sound quite expertly. In contrast to “Helped By Science?” the string part that dominates the final minute of “Emergency Room” uses an interesting progression to complete the track quite nicely.  The best guitar example lies around the 4:35 mark of “Brighter as We Fall,” when the guitar suddenly switches to a much more dense, uniform rhythm, adding a needed, though subtle change to the relatively long track. The synth also has some particularly excellent sections, including its first entrance on “Hang Your Head,” where it slowly increases in volume while playing off of the guitar line.

While the individual tracks of Three Fact Fader are generally quite well played, the album as a whole suffers from a severe lack of diversity. Not only do many tracks retain the same sound as a number of preceding tracks, but even when tracks differ significantly as far as instrumentation goes, chords and progressions are heavily repeated across tracks. And while the first significant use of building volume might have served to separate “Brighter as We Fall” (which was already one of the more distinct tracks, with its clearer vocals and overall lighter sound) from the previous four tracks, the same technique, used repeatedly throughout the album, loses its effectiveness.

Three Fact Fader is filled with the abstract metaphors befitting its ethereal sound, as Engineers proves itself quite adept at crafting lyrics that create detailed, colorful images. The “clean coloured wire” of the opening track is the first example of this imagery, as the “wire” serves as a sort of thread through reality. The album is filled with such writing, both in the form of metonymy and description, demonstrated as Phipps observes thought-provoking ideas, from “faith steadfast / challenged by a needle,” to the thought that “beneath that hunger lies a warning no one cares to heed,” to the despairing admonitions of “Song for Andy,” which mixes harsh reality with the surreal air of the album. In this manner, Engineers has imbued its album with deep, thoughtful lyrics which skillfully draw the interest of the listener. At the same time, however, the lyrics occasionally fall into repetition, as with the line “Does it feel right? / If it feels right,” repeated far too many times through “International Dirge.” This doesn’t have the power to completely diminish the lyrical triumphs of Three Fact Fader, but it certainly lessens their draw, as it has the tendency to bore the listener.

Nearly every element used on Three Fact Fader was both constructed and recorded successfully, but only as far as individual tracks were concerned. The largest problem with the album is a lack of diversity between tracks. This affects the album significantly enough that the last three tracks, which seemed the result of Engineers realizing that the album lacked diversity – “The Fear Has Gone” uses a slow string line to start the track, while “Be What You Are” uses a strong acoustic guitar and “What Pushed Us Together” a quite active synth – even begin to blend in with the rest of the album, simply through similar harmonies and vocal lines. While Engineers certainly wrote many strong tracks, taken together, the tracks do not form quite as strong an album.

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