Listencorp review image of surrogate by fake fever


Fake Fever


Liam Murphy

April 24, 2020

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

Peach Glow fades in with trickling water and a decaying melodic loop. Gradually a beat reveals itself, the soft sound…

Peach Glow fades in with trickling water and a decaying melodic loop. Gradually a beat reveals itself, the soft sound of a gently played hi hat manages not to disturb the fragile atmosphere being created. A fluid lead synth worms its way through, wavering slightly. Fake Fever already makes an incredibly dreamy environment in very little time. A voice inches out into the billowing throng of sound. As the track continues, building in instrumentation and intensity, the vocal line takes more of a centre stage, though still trapped behind the melody of instruments. The human aspect of the track provides an added layer of warmth to Peach Glow. The vocalist sounds as if they are exerting emotion and pain while singing, but all of this is almost lost to the decay of time as the voice echoes out into the ether.

Neon Spree brings the album to a less washed out place. A detuned synth plays alongside a more pacy rhythm, playful tom drums accenting each bar. It is clear even from these two songs that Fake Fever has an interest in slightly damaged sounds. All of the synths have a light film of fuzz on their surface, giving everything a strangely dated sheen to it, or as if the tracks have had sunlight blasted onto them, causing them to wear slightly. All of a sudden a guitar bursts into the fray, noodling expertly between the synths and bassline.

Solid Gold distorts the infectious hook of INXS’s Need You Tonight to create a beautiful vaporwave refrain. The bassline controls the narrative, bringing everything back to the same spot at the end of every bar. The vocals lie perfectly behind the instrumentation. The track has that heady feeling of a band like the Stone Roses and the electronic brilliance of Depeche Mode.

Terrace pulls the album back to a more frail sound as crystalline pools of synths trickle toward the listener, a trebly drum begins to inch out into the small, echoey space. A bassline bursts in alongside starlight synths that peel off into the space in front of us. A methodical synth arpeggiation begins. The vocalist rejoins the instrumentation. Something in the cadences and melodies he uses is really reminiscent of that epic pop of bands like Tears for Fears. The track ends with a guitar riff, submerged deep within the flowing rivers of synth.

Dorian is perhaps the most uniform and restrained song to appear on Surrogate. The track starts with a very poppy sensibility, each instrument clearly audible with nothing slipping into ethereality. This slips slightly in the chorus of the song as crystal synth begin to twinkle on the outer regions of the track. Fake Fever is adept at meshing the washed out aesthetic of a genre like vaporwave with the uniformity of electronic pop. At any point it feels like we are both listening to a strange album we’ve purchased on a cassette and hearing a fully-formed, synth-led band.

Chromefall begins with descending chimes that then reverse back up into the centre of the mix. A vertiginous synth gently treads on its own before the drums and lower melodies join it. A beautifully distorted binary riff emanates, slightly out of time like a heavily affected guitar, it gives that sense of a real organic feeling of the sublime. Again, Fake Fever combines characteristics of purely electronic music with organic instrumentation perfectly.

Dirty Plastic starts with effervescent synths that give way to a heavily amped up bassline that swings from one side to the other, giving credence to the drumline as a clear rhythm appears amidst the swirling sound. The vocalist appears once again, the voice and the mixing of it a constant source of interest. In this song, he takes that laidback open ended diction of someone like Pinback’s Rob Crow. Happy to stand back in the mix and have their vocal chops swarmed and engulfed by the beautiful instrumentation. This works well, as Fake Fever brings hypnotic synth loops and epic drum sequences that make for incredibly comfortable and enjoyable listening.

Reverie shoots a spurt of feedback toward the listener before a lacy, mystic-sounding environment reveals itself. Glittering synths lead us into heavy, bass drum-led percussion. It is almost as if the air in front of us waivers with the stifling heat of Fake Fever’s native South Carolina. Bringing us into a more mysterious sound, Reverie holds steady with feelings of slight anxiety throughout. The slightly off-kilter synth line, the two recurring guitar notes that peel off, trembling in the glowing sunlight.

Snowfields pushes its way into focus, scratching white noise and aching piano reverberating throughout the stereo field. The heat of the previous track is almost wiped out, icy dissonance inching its way in to replace it. A pulsing bass section moves alongside the fast moving percussion, humming with life. The overwhelming hypnosis of the bassline seeping into every part of the track allows for percussion to build up behind it, which gradually brings us into a track that emanates that same cold feeling as 90s trance electronica. The synths twinkle with life, the drums keeping the instrumentation in constant motion. Snowfields provides another change of pace, but instead of being jarring, it just serves as another example of Fake Fever’s mastery of production.

Mellow piano chords lay over the noises of a half-busy street. We watch from a window, warm inside. The tracks preceding some sort of incredible (dare I say) fever dream. Saxophones croon, lost in delayed undulations. A drum beat crashes in, sharing this same 90s aesthetic. One is reminded of the slow-moving instrumentation of Lighthouse Family. The percussion is so beautifully organic, integrating itself perfectly within the warm feeling that emanates from the melodic sections. One can almost see the red hues dancing over the top of a city horizon as we say farewell to Surrogate.

Fake Fever is able to pull off a brilliant production-focused album that we see so much of on labels like Business Casual, but tinges it with vocal performances that push it to the level of a fully-fledged electronic pop project. The sounds pulse with warmth and vibrancy as we hear vocals stream across the sky of the stereo field. It is a perfect album for the approaching summer, full of sunset imagery and elegant melodies.