Listening to F ingers is a ghostly occurrence, not of the floating sheets kind but that of an occupied space, occupants unknown. Just as stylized cinematography or purposefully scratchy film grain can feel like an additional character in a movie, F ingers’ lo-fi, mumbling production imagines a confined architecture and a smokey mist seeping through door cracks. I’m cautious but entranced.
Comprised of Australians Carla Dal Forno, Tarquin Manek, and Samuel Karmel, F ingers reveals (to me) Awkwardly Blissing Out, their second effort for the deservedly hip Blackest Ever Black label. There are only six tracks, but there’s much to digest here. The album recalls the experimental DIY production renaissance of the cassette crazy late ’80s/early ‘90s, including work by a few forgotten New Zealand sonic scientists (for hemispheric relevance). These influences have layers, and I’m driven to find pieces of Brian Eno’s “In Dark Trees” within “All Rolled Up” and the DNA of Cabaret Voltaire’s Red Mecca wrapped around the album’s title track. But it’s the deliberate aural claustrophobia that’s striking, relieved momentarily by Dal Forno’s lovely, sing-songy – and somewhat disembodied – vocals. The compositions exhibit a restrained improvisation, seemingly deliberate when listened from top-to-bottom, but there’s frequent evidence of the ‘happy accident.’ For example, that relatively catchy synth motif in “Your Confused” isn’t improvised in the notes played, but in the playful tweaks of processing and timbre.
There’s perhaps this movement away from the pristine and the technical in music production. The surprise is the evocative nature of the imperfect, whether a wistful mood inferred from a ruined tintype photograph or a chill-on-the-spine delivered via a crumbling homestead. Awkwardly Blissing Out masterfully transports the listener in this way. It’s a nice and spooky place to visit, though you probably wouldn’t want to live there.