Rashamon: Frightened By the Familiar
Passive Aggressive

Lee Hume's Rashamon formula—electronic tracks built from beats and samples on a laptop (a VAIO for those keeping score)—is neither radically new nor unique, which leads one to wonder why Frightened by the Familiar sounds so great. A single listen makes the reason clear: the Brighton-based artist's material strikes a perfect balance on multiple fronts. It's aggressive without being overbearing, it feels live and loose without lapsing into aimlessness, songs take unexpected turns without sacrificing the character of a given song's mood, plus there's a non-stop flow of fresh invention and ideas throughout. Furthermore, Hume's not afraid of pulling in the reins for an occasional mellow moment or two (e.g., the warm Rhodes sparkle that courses through the beautiful funk-house center of “Mock Shouting”). In addition to live contributors Mike Huggett on bass and Chris Cook on guitar or sitar, Hume's often joined by London-based artist and musician Seb Wyatt who adds guitar loops to five tracks, including the placid outro “Goodnight, Nobody” where his glistening strums complement Hume's crunchy beats.

Every song offers a slightly different take on the Rashamon formula. “Mates to Some Pilgrim” builds hypnotically with vitriolic shouts draped over an insistent piano melody and buoyant funk breaks. The bright electro overture “A Keen Sense of Doubt in the Waking Day” showcases synth pulsations and Orb-like voice samples while melancholy melodies of arcade sunlight reflect off of sparkling pool surfaces in “Finland After '73.” Despite the presence of billowing harp filigrees, a grittier vibe emerges in the hip-hop flavoured “Plane As Ya Honey” while a similar downtempo feel boosts the chiming breaks of “Summer in a Box.” The almost eleven-minute “Giant,” a rather melancholy colossus of lulling rhythms and bucolic electro-synth splendour, is clearly the disc's epic but its peak is actually the banger “Every Home Becomes a Western” where a woman's “Tell me something to make me love you” utterance ushers in a tasty soul-funk groove that morphs into a supremely rocking electro-raver. The distinctive Frightened by the Familiar makes good on the promise of the group's Highpoint Lowlife 7-inch Windo Loca.

January 2006