text: Greg Sheer
With the 2012 release of Fink’s first live album, Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet, comes the recorded catalogue of a throbbing and atmospheric live show, setting on display a penchant for trance-ish arrangement, seasoned with a blues and gospel sensibility. The arrangements hearken back to lead singer and guitarist Fin Greenall’s early days, creating ambient techno to some degree of success, while attending Leeds University in West Yorkshire. But the collection of tracks, plucked from the trio’s extensive European touring, also reflects a journeyman’s focus and worldliness. They set on display the experience gained from Greenall’s many collaborations and side projects, including work with big names like John Legend and Amy Winehouse.
If we apply a lesson learned from the working, bop-jazz combos of the mid 20th century, we see that these musicians, compensating for smaller size, develop an almost otherworldly ability to multi-task, and convey a near orchestral sound, a pastiche of deftly managed negative space and detail work. Fink’s three piece line-up is no exception. Utilizing dynamics and modern real-time digital-effects to their advantage, they’ve crafted a group of swelling and hypnotic sessions, which stand in defiance of the singer-songwriter niche it would otherwise be so tempting to relegate them to.
“Perfect Darkness” lays forth a minimalist drum and bass rhythm section, punctuated by sparse and contemplative guitar work, and effectively setting the stage for Greenall’s staccato vocal rhythms and smoky gospel timbre. This model informs much of the album’s song structuring, on tracks like ‘Berlin Sunrise’, and ‘Warm Shadow’ with an almost Gaelic rhythm propping up playful and taunting lyrics, delivered with a Doors-like combination of breathiness and mesmerizing blues swagger.
Or take “Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us,” a pulsating 2/4 rumination, stewing in the wake of catastrophe; the grim surmising reflected in these songs might give cause to accuse the band of chronic mopiness, were it not for their acute ability to pull the yolk back up and into revelrous instrumentals, best exemplified on “Fear is Like Fire” and “Biscuits”.
Fink here curates a formidable collection of live performances, defiant and emotive, reserved just so, and up over the top just when you need it.