Horizontalism parts company from Fink's last album, 2014's Hard Believer, in a number of striking ways. But while that might be the case, in another sense the two couldn't be any more strongly linked: Horizontalism isn't just the follow-up release to Hard Believer; it's an hour-long collection of Hard Believer dubs, bold reworks that revisit the earlier album's tracks and reinvent them in radical manner. If there's one thing that differentiates the two releases above all else, it's that, like a parallel gravitation away from folk to electronic genres, the focus on lyrics-centered song narratives that characterizes Hard Believer shifts towards something considerably more experimental on Horizontalism. The originals' vocal and instrumental elements are treated like sound objects, ready to be manipulated and recombined in bold style. It's an interesting project: neither a stand-alone album nor a collection of makeovers created by outside producers, Horizontalism is instead the sound of Fink remixing itself.
But while the songs on Horizontalism have been refashioned, they retain traces of the Fink signature that Fin Greenall (vocals, guitar), Guy Whittaker (bass), and Tim Thornton (drums) naturally impose upon the group's material. Greenall's rugged singing voice, arguably the element that most indelibly brands a song as a Fink creation, is, in fact, the first sound heard on the new collection, even if “Fall into the Light” gradually advances beyond its hushed beginnings into a mysterious, mantra-styled zone of electronic whispers. “Suffering is the Art of Love” perhaps hews most to the established Fink sound in featuring Greenall's bluesy singing and acoustic guitar picking.
In characteristic dub fashion, vocals are absent in many songs, and consequently a slow-burner such as “Looking Too Closely (So36dub)” nudges the Fink sound in the direction of club music, even if of a thoroughly underground and idiosyncratic kind. “Shakespeare (Nachbarn39)” and “A30 Breakdown,” on the other hand, see Fink working elements of murky dronescaping into its song universe. With synth lasers flaring and undercurrents of percussive clicks and bass thumps leading the trippy way, “Pilgrim (Moda232)” and “White Flag (Nachteule143)” demonstrate just how far Fink was willing to go on the project. “Music Won't Save You (Horizontalism Mix)” caps the release on a curious note by threading audience applause and laughter into a cosmic-folk instrumental.
Though Horizontalism doesn't overflow with joyful abandon—a dark streak definitely runs through it—, the project nevertheless conveys the impression of Fink's members enjoying themselves. It's as if the group temporarily cast aside the usual pressures involved in an album's production and granted themselves the opportunity to play.