Female-fronted synthpop has become something of an in-vogue sound in recent years. Hot young bands emerge frequently, glancing to the 80s for inspiration before producing luscious electro sounds overlaid with the vocal talents of a pretty young girl. This has turned synthpop into a genre that has once again affected the mainstream consciousness, soundtracking television advertisements and headlining festivals. A good time for the North East quintet Fractions to introduce themselves, then, with the release of their self-titled debut EP.
That said, it is very unlikely that Fractions will be helping to sell a car anytime soon. Their synthpop sound is darker, and considerably more gloomy than that of many of their present-day contemporaries. Each band member worked in seclusion to complete the EP, spending hours alone in their respective bedroom studios, and so it is perhaps apt that much of their lyrical content addresses themes such as isolation and detachment.
Fractions were borne from the ashes of the hardcore band Lavotchkin, and the five-piece have worked together since 2012. Comparisons have been drawn between their sound and that of synthpop heavyweights CHVRCHES, but while similarities do exist, Fractions are definitely their own band. Particularly, whereas CHVRCHES have the cute vocal talents of Lauren Mayberry, Fractions have the reverberating strains of Lucy Gallagher, whose presence echoes around the EP, sometimes loud and clear but sometimes fading eerily into the background.
Their debut EP Fractions is five tracks long, and lasts a healthy twenty minutes. It opens with “Into The Earth”, a two-and-a-half minute introduction that, stylistic and gender differences aside, wouldn’t seem out of place opening one of The Cure’s darker albums. Lucy haunts in the background for much of the track, as synth and other instrumentation takes centre stage, and when she finally does come to the forefront she’s quiet and muffled. This could be a sound mixing issue, but the track serves as a good opener to the EP and a good signal of what is to come. Next up is “Burst”, Fractions’ standout track. The opening riffs of guitar and the echo of Lucy’s voice as she sings about her definition of truth is reminiscent of the 90s rockers Lush, and has a quality to it that recalls the sound of shoegaze. (In a world in which we often compound genre titles together, could this perhaps be termed ‘synthgaze’?)
Track three is their debut single “Breathe”, released last year on a small independent label to limited acclaim. It, again, demonstrates a much more mature sound than you’d expect from relative fledging’s releasing their first real material. Track four, “Resist”, is the longest track on the EP and is an eerie number about old age. It begins with fast-paced keys that sound ever so slightly out of tempo with the rest of the song, and this works to good effect, making “Resist” the most unique and eclectic of what Fractions has to offer.
Listen to ‘Breath’
The closing number is “Fate”, and it is an appropriate choice. Slower-paced and reflective, it bookends the EP well by returning to the style of the opener, with plentiful instrumentation accompanied by Lucy’s spooky, brooding refrains. It’s another strong song, completing an EP that unlike so many is free of filler material.
As a collective work, Fractions is a very strong debut EP. Its gothic outlook and reflective lyricism, coupled with the strong production values and considerable talent of the band, make it well worth a listen if you have even the most passing of interests in the synthpop genre. Fractions is out on September 8th through the Liverpudlian independent Edils Records, available both digitally and in physical formats. I’d strongly recommend checking it out, you shouldn’t be disappointed. 7.8/10