This debut LP from London trio Fassine, a band currently enjoying attention from some of the biggest names in UK music journalism, struggles to fully lift off, as repetitive templates and a lack of new ideas hampers an album that promises so much from the offset. It’s undeniably a swish and stylish-sounding record, the production work is well and truly on point here, but this is too often little more than window dressing that distracts from the fact that the vast majority of these uninspired tracks don’t have anything interesting to say.
Opening track Headlong promises much with its complex, disjointed drum rhythms and experimental synth sounds, no section of the track remaining exactly the same for more than four bars. Though lead singer Sarah Palmer struggles to form a distinctive identity amidst the heavily-produced electronica in the background, more about her vocal performances in a moment, the track is otherwise a bold and intriguing opening number that unfortunately is rarely matched as the record goes on. Following tracks Bring The Weight Down and We Had A Gun severely disappoint, providing listeners with nothing new and somehow feeling incredibly formulaic despite the album being only three tracks in, and from then Dialectik is an uphill struggle.
With a darker atmosphere to it and some nice vocal work, perfectly produced so that the octaves and harmonies are not too overwhelming, Sunshine is a good listen, whilst the title track is certainly the album’s most exhilarating. The mid-album Englander adds a sense of the cinematic, as an intense instrumental is overlaid with samples from old British TV (one suspects the original House of Cards but doesn’t have the conviction to mention it outside of parentheses); it’s a truly unnerving piece, and feels like the album’s most organic. In the midst of a record that seems to use overproduction to paper over some of its cracks, such minimalism (acoustic drums, real strings, nothing too out of the ordinary), combined with excellent use of sampling, is a breath of fresh air.
That the best track on the album is one without a proper vocal performance is no coincidence. Be it through the overproduction of the bulky instrumentation or the just plain bizarre whispered singing style of Palmer, the band’s lead singer is almost anonymous for most of the record. At best she blends into the rest of the record without us really taking notice of her, at worst her contrived attempts at endearing indie vulnerability are almost unbearably irritating. There are some moments where Palmer properly goes for it, and shows that when she’s not putting on this daft act she has a decent pair of lungs on her, but they are too few and far between.
The best tracks on Dialectik would probably make a damn fine EP, but the fact that this underwhelming debut LP stretches across 10 songs is what makes it a very difficult listen. Patient listeners will be rewarded by its more charming moments, but the sheer lack of ideas on this record will most likely warrant repeat movements towards the skip button for most.