More than a decade on from debut album ‘Antidotes’ we still have no idea where to place Foals. Opening as a math rock group equally influenced by Don Cabellero and Kompakt, ‘Total Life Forever’ saw a firm embrace of electronic culture before the potent force of their live show drove ‘What Went Down’ to take on the dominant, muscular impact of Led Zep in their preening prime.
But that was four years ago. The departure of Walter Gervers spun the group once more, forcing them to upend expectations and analyse both the friendships within the band and their musical roles. Booking up a studio space in Peckham, Foals entered into a kind of South London version of Schrödinger's Box, whereby all possibilities existed at the same time.
What has emerged is a band re-defined, with ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1’ featuring some of the most thrilling, adventurous, visceral, caustic, and personal music of their career, a bold, bombastic, relentlessly daring album that upends expectations at every turn.
Album opener ‘Moonlight’ seeps out of the speakers with choral ambience, the filtered electronic sweeps recalling Brian Eno’s ‘An Ascent’ as the pastoral digitalism gradually comes into sharp focus. All gorgeous textures and bubbling production, it’s a diminutive but endlessly appealing composition, helping to erase expectations, razing old ground for new constructions.
This gentle introduction is torn apart by its deft segue into ‘Exits’, however; an extensive bass-heavy house jam with a Brutalist sense of sound, it’s club tropes re-purposed for a rock format, the bulging low end coupled with a Yannis Philappakis vocal that seethes and writhes with life.
‘White Onions’ is a taut, anthemic workout, Jack Bevan’s ectstatic drumming almost violently hurling Foals to a new level. ‘In Degrees’ is a frisky disco-tinged workout, with those endlessly undulating synths referencing clinical proto-techno jammers while Jimmy Smith’s clipped guitar line adds a tropical edge.
‘Syrups’ sketches out fresh space, the sound of Foals mapping out undiscovered territory with incredible confidence; ‘On The Luna’ is the closest we come to the guitar frenzy of old, the pulsating riff worth setting alongside Gang Of Four or even their own ‘Antidotes’.
Sonically daring, ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1’ nonetheless feels incredibly precise, with each step taken because it’s the right decision. Nothing is wasted, no idea is allowed to out-stay its welcome – even down to 44 second minuet ‘Surf Pt. 1’.
One of the reasons for the album’s completeness is the lyrical ability of Yannis Philippakis. Each word interacts perfectly with the music around it, while the album reflects the world it was made – holding a mirror up to our dytopian political landscape, it’s prescient ecological concerns are mirrored this constant exhortation to stand up, to stand out.
‘Sunday’ launches with glacial electronics, Yannis’ vocal shrouded in longing, yearning to “live again my friend”. But he embodies twin messages of panic and defiance as the electronics peak, singing: “Cities burn, we don’t give a damn cos we’ve got all our friends right here…”
Exploding into this searing, volcanic fusion of the organic and the digital, ‘Sunday’ is not only one of the best songs on the new album but one of the best songs Foals have ever put their name against. Precise, bold, and overwhelming, it’s a stunning tour de force, the sound of the band’s unspoken consensus hurling them into a fresh chapter.
Sombre finale ‘I’m Done With The World (And It’s Done With Me)’ feels like a cliffhanger, the energy of the album suddenly dissipating, the pace dropping. Little more than piano and vocals, it’s the sole moment of true intimacy on the record, the surging pace abruptly dipping to reveal this fractured yearning vocal.
An album of stunning ambition and outright defiance, ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1’ rips apart everything you know about Foals, a bold transformative work, as inspiring as it is urgent. Part Two drops in the Autumn. Truly, the only competition Foals have is themselves.
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