Frederic Robinson Gives Us His Flea Waltz LP
Posted by Ben on 10th December 2016
Earlier this year we covered the news that Med School Music had signed young German artist Frederic Robinson, and the press release at the time claimed that:
“It’s been a hard secret to keep but now the cat is out of the bag so get excited – something rather special is on its way.”
That was exciting news to receive, and 4 months down the line I think it’s safe to say that the “something rather special” referred to here is Flea Waltz, the follow up LP to his incredible 2013 debut album Mixed Signals. It’s no surprise that Hospital Records‘ sister label is responsible for its output, and Med School have shown numerous times in the past that they’re experts in purveying forward thinking, high quality music.
These are both phrases that describe Flea Waltz perfectly, because all 14 tracks on this release are designed and engineered with thought provoking precision and a clear dedication to warm, emotive music. As such, it’s fitting that the opening tune ticks both of these boxes. Constellations is our introduction to the album and to Lily Juniper, the talented vocalist who despite appearing five more times on Flea Waltz, is at her best here. This one couldn’t be a better opener in my opinion, the earthy strings and rich lower end contrast so well with the euphoric violins and Juniper’s serene voice. The lack of percussion in Constellations gives it a very spacious, natural feel, underlining the pop aspect with something altogether more abstract and unrecognisable. This track sets the bar for the rest of Flea Waltz pretty high, and I’m happy I can say it gets met.
A fair amount of Flea Waltz is somewhat downbeat, and it would seem like the German producer has leaned towards more rueful sounds this time around. For this reason We’ve Been, a collaboration with Georgian producer Kordz, really stands out to me. Instead of creating an atmosphere of moody ambience, Robinson has opted instead for a collection of upbeat piano chords and chunky bass notes. The way this combination has been arranged shows intimidatingly impressive creativity, the melody is fast, catchy and repetitive but always interesting, with constant rises and falls all the way through. Anyone looking for evidence of musical talent only has to look at the piano composition in We’ve Been to find it, and the smatterings of laughter and other cool little touches are the icing on the cake.
Tunes that have perfectly fitting names always do something right in my view, the title of a track is the first visual representation of said music you might see, so it’s important. Where I’m going with this is down to Chirpy Tricks, towards the rear end of the album this tune is a complete breath of fresh air in an already impossibly fresh LP. The fundamental elements of this one are the bundles of offbeat, funky synths that accompany it’s wonky structure and charismatic charm. Chirpy Tricks is another example of exquisite layering from Frederic Robinson, and the way he switches between sections with a fuller sound and others that are much sparser give this track loads of character. Definitely certain to put a smile on your face.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, from the loud to the discrete and the garish to the understated, Hypha is a long train ride away from the jauntiness of We’ve Been and Chirpy Tricks. In fact, a dragging train journey is the perfect time for the subtlety of Hypha‘s climbing intensity to make your thoughts drift and wander. This track is a constant contrast between quiet and loud, from the clever drum section to the layered soundscapes, the alterations in volume accentuate the progressive changes in mood. I also love how stretched out Robinson has made this one feel, and despite it only being four minutes long it feels like you’ve accomplished something when you reach the end. Whilst Hypha might be slightly too slow to get places for some, your patience is rewarded with a masterclass at using intricate textures to create suspense.
Earlier on I mentioned Lily Juniper, the singer/songwriter from London who makes frequent appearances on this album, five to be exact. It’s clear that she was a valuable contributor to the creative process behind this piece of music, so I want to discuss a couple other tracks she’s present on to try and highlight this. Constellations aside, the melancholic nature of her voice lends itself well to sombre, ambient music, and this is typified in Breathing. The vocals and instrumental are balanced so well here, and the frequent addition of new elements and gradual increase in intensity make it a great journey. The other tune definitely worth mentioning is Colder, another gorgeously smooth number that focuses a bit more on the vocal work and in doing so ramps up the melancholia to new heights. Lily Juniper injects every track she’s featured on with a certain level of harmonic humanity, giving this album yet another reason to be loved.
Just like how a Big Bus Tour in London doesn’t show you the whole city, this review can’t effectively summarise the wide range of emotions and experiences Flea Waltz has to offer. This LP is funky, brooding and contemplative all at the same time, and the sheer breadth of musical flavours touched on throughout give it such variety. A recurring theme with the tracks on Flea Waltz is their sense of progression, that feeling of being on a journey and the satisfaction when you complete it are both integral to this album’s quality. Flea Waltz clearly isn’t Drum & Bass, and whilst it does lack the speed and energy that make the genre so good, it compensates by creating a really unique vibe that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else. This is without a doubt one of my favourite non-DnB releases in years, and to properly experience it you need to listen from start to finish, so pick it up right now from iTunes or the Med School Store.
1) Constellations feat. Lily Juniper
4) Breathing feat. Lily Juniper
5) We’ve Been feat. Kordz
6) Shuffle Home
7) Colder feat. Lily Juniper
8) Night Garden
9) Flea Waltz
11) City feat. Lily Juniper
12) Chirp Tricks
13) 25 Yards
14) In Depth feat. Lily Juniper