Feature Album: Warpaint: The Fool

Hola! and welcome to Laneway's new Feature Album series. As part of our ongoing commitment to bringing the Southern hemisphere the best and brightest in new music, over the coming weeks and months we're going to be reviewing and streaming a selection of fine new records by bands playing at the 2011 festivals.

First cab off the rank: the bewitching Warpaint, whose debut album, The Fool, dropped this week. Watch this space for reviews and streams of new albums by The Antlers, Jenny and Jonny, Stornoway, Bear in Heaven and many more as we head into summer.

Warpaint: The Fool

[Rough Trade]

All-girl psychedelic quartet Warpaint have taken their time bringing us their debut album. The L.A.-based band began writing songs six years ago; since then, they've endured a couple of line-up changes, toured the world, released an acclaimed ep (2008's Exquisite Corpse) and signed to venerable indie label Rough Trade. Now, finally, with hype surrounding the band building to levels only known in the internet age, it's here: The Fool, Warpaint's debut long player.

The Fool's hazy, genre-defying nine tracks evince a lot of hard work. Warpaint have spoken of their love of simply playing music with each other. This is how they write, and it shows: each song carries the spontaneous feel of an open-ended jam, the intimate, serendipitous air of four friends playing music together deep into the night. Only on The Fool, by virtue of judicious editing and smart production, what began as jams have been honed and refined into tight, discrete, surely handled songs.

In an interview with Pitchfork, singer-guitarist Emily Kokal talked of her love of the movies of master American filmmaker Terence Malick, in particular his masterpiece Days of Heaven, speaking of his uncanny ability to keep the plot moving and changing. It's an apt reference: The Fool's tracks move and unfurl according to a logic of the band's own invention, rising and falling and gathering pace unhurriedly and unpredictably, never staying in one place for too long. Central to the band's non-linear songform is the formidable rhythm section of Stella Mozgawa (drums) and Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass), whose rapid gear changes and inventive playing provide a perfect counterpoint to the breathy, massed vocals and slippery guitars happening in the upper registers, keeping things moving at a rapid clip on 'Composure', and changing and evolving on 'Warpaint' and 'Undertow.'

The Fool is a record easy to get lost in –– the fragile, seductive vocals and echoing, reverbed guitars evoking a late night ocean swim. (This is probably intentional: when Warpaint were recording The Fool, Kokal told Pitchfork that the band were shooting for 'an overall underwater mood'.) Top-notch production by Tom Biller, known for his work with Liars and Karen O, and mixing by rave doyen Andrew Weatherall ensure that the band's dense, layered sound never becomes muddy or indistinct.

Where the band's debut ep traded in more immediate hooks (see the remarkable 'Billie Holiday'), The Fool rewards close listening, its 47 minutes revealing new treasures with each spin. Some of the songs come on stronger than others –– the hushed, magic-hour 'Baby', the pulsing, mid-tempo 'Undertow' –– but all have depths to explore. Which, for a record so long in the making, makes perfect sense. Dive in.

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