Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020)
Anyone who has heard Fred again..’s heart-rending love letter to the hedonism that Covid has stolen, ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’, knows the gutturally deep emotional reaction he can extract with his studio surgery. That track is not included on the London producer’s debut album but it is as neat an encapsulation of the album’s premise as there could be: Fred has built each of these tracks from a starting base of voice memo snippets, snatched dialogue and found sounds, fashioning fully realised and evolved pieces of music out of no more than fleeting glimpses of human expression.
The tracks are named after the character whose inner voice we are mining as listeners, with a neat summation of the emotional essence of the track following in parentheses. Take ‘Kyle (I Found You)’, based around a raw, intimate poem that Fred stumbled across, over which he lays a wompy, cloudy groove that leads the track out of self-containment and onto the dancefloor, or ‘Dermot (See Yourself In My Eyes)’, which lets in a shard of sunlight, which spreads eventually into a full, loving embrace of warmth.
Little in Fred’s work producing for Ed Sheeran would have predicted such emotional depth (although his work with Brian Eno and Headie One more so), but Fred doesn’t just rely on the lived experiences of others here, as proved by ‘Me (Heavy)’, a painfully intimate track set on a hospital ICU ward where a close friend of Fred was being treated. The second date of the album’s title refers to their untimely passing and the tragedy understandably haunts several tracks on the album.
Not unlike the recent For Those I Love album, Fred finds that the contrast of recorded voice clips and ghostly, nocturnal house beats reaps seriously poignant rewards and whatever the emotional register of the tracks, they are in every case distilled to their purest strength. By zooming in so tightly on one isolated, often unguarded moment of genuine expression, the result is often a track of almost unbearably heightened impact. If we could live in slow-motion, we would be able to examine each passing impulse and thought process to its full end point and experience our lives more completely, and in essence that is Fred’s intention here. It is, in the most literal sense, art imitating life.
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