There are not many fresh ideas left in the narrow intersection of cold wave, noise rock and shoegaze. It’s tough fishing around in the oily gloom for something that batters the senses raw, but doesn’t sound like A Place To Bury Strangers, Cold Cave or something Marilyn Manson might use as a ringtone. Where all those artists rely on their music’s sheer physical presence to shock or seduce us into submission, there are not many bands who would opt for subtle sophistication to draw us into their darkness. However, that appears to be the niche that Parisian trio FTR (Yann C, Pauline CP and Brice D) intend to fill on their second album Manners.
Among the floating swarf and industrial machine parts of their unmistakably APTBS-inspired sound, also lurks a thin flotsam of sweet smelling, red rose petals. That’s what we’re here for. Though this release is significantly darker and streamlined compared to 2015 debut album Horizons, touring with the likes of APTB, The Soft Moon and The KVB has seen them turn up the white noise distortion on each track, while somehow keeping a sense of chic and just avoiding the descent into bleeding-ear territory. ‘Collision’ does open Manners with a banshee wail of feedback, but this quickly subsides, sinking deep into a driving fuzz bass barrage, gripping from the outset.
FTR know the difference between hooking the listener willingly into a rhythm, and pummelling them with relentless kick drum sucker punches. For example, on the breath-holding pace of ‘Cross Your Heart’, the phasing fizz of ‘Chances’ or the mesmeric pulse of ‘One’, you never once feel like they’re ramming you from behind to get limbs to move in time. Rather, your senses are drawn more conventionally into an elegant dance, before realising its darker nature. Despite its more polished production, Manners occasionally tips its black, wide-brim hat to the gothic roots of this sub-sub-genre, with flanged echoes of The Cure in ‘Black Sand’ and Christian Death‘s vicious box cutter guitars on ‘Never’. It starts to get really interesting, however, on songs like ‘Right Track’ or ‘Sunrise’ where the smooth, yet shattered vocals sound like the bleak, romantic outpourings of Mr Hyde, if Phoenix were his Dr Jekyll. Closing track, ‘Breathe’ is a short-lived diversion onto the dance floor, with its foursquare rhythm and synth horn alarm call, it hints at where FTR might excel as a live act.
Once it’s over, what remains (along with the welcome absence of tinnitus) is a lingering feeling of having connected with this album in, frankly, unanticipated ways. All the brittle frailties of human emotions and ego are exposed on Manners in ways that are missed in the coldness of their contemporaries, suggesting that FTR’s songs are aiming for the heart, not the jugular.
Manners is released on 15th February, 2019 through Metropolis Records.