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Felipe + Forte - Shaggy Black

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Artist: Felipe + Forte

Album: Shaggy Black

Label: Soft Abuse

Review date: Jun. 20, 2005

Noise has finally outgrown its cradle with no stretch marks to speak of. Not only has it drawn more critical interest and consumer responsiveness than at any other time in its life, but it also rivals hip hop as a breeding ground for collaborative effort, prompting preachers nationwide to take their targets off rock music so as to write clever, inflammatory sermon titles like "Family Dentistry: America's Incestuous Noise Scene.” Proof ’nough is the story of Felipe + Forte, an experimental electronica duo comprised of Dino Felipe (Old Bombs, Fukktron, Finesse and Runaway) and Nick Forte (the artist behind 2004's woefully underrated Pasted Lakes LP and member of Christmas Decorations). Prompted to work together by Romulo del Castillo and Josh Kay, co-owners of Soft Abuse records and all-around indie matchmakers, their debut album makes for a powerful synthesis between Fennesz-inspired ambience and dissonance.

Most albums composed primarily of processed guitar (and that is what we're dealing with here) either showcase a slow graduation of repeated sound experiments that layer and climax somewhat predictably or simply punish the listener with unforgiving tones at decibels not meant for human consumption. While Shaggy Black doesn't escape either of those criticisms completely, it does subvert them by virtue of its sheer schizophrenia. Oftentimes, a track won't lock into any sort of rhythm, preferring to draw attention to the varied range of manipulations Felipe + Forte are capable of producing from their six-strings. Then there are the tracks like "Gnome as on the Noggin" that don't really arrive at a rhythm so much as crash into one. It's truly a wonder that the album sounds as cohesive as it does.

There's the longstanding notion that noise fans subject themselves to extended periods of sonic self-abuse so as to recognize the value of natural silence. In short, the absence or scarcity of quietude makes such a thing more appreciable. Coming from such illustrious backgrounds, Felipe + Forte are probably somewhat versed in the economics of sound, leaving one to believe that Shaggy Black's weakest moments must have resulted from the duo's professional unfamiliarity with one another or poorly designed ideas that simply escaped counter-intuition. Their zeal for nebulous soundscapes translates onto record, thanks in no small part to their dynamic aural palette.

But, more often than not, their attempts to lend their creations any sort of accessibility backfire, defeating whatever otherworldliness they'd so carefully earned. The two most offending inclusions that come to mind are traditional percussive instruments and spoken word passages, the latter of which is almost indefensible, no matter how low in the mix. This isn't an issue of pretence or conceit but an issue of capable artists sullying their neuron-stimulating work with a lazily conceived and completely hackneyed device. Luckily, these lapses in judgment are kept to a minimum and the affair, as a whole, certainly compensates for such distaste.

By Kevin Adickes

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