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Wielding Passion – In Letter Form’s “Fracture. Repair. Repeat.”

In Letter Form
Fracture. Repair. Repeat

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Fracture. Repair. Repeat. opens with a fiery sermon’s brief excerpt the concluding line of which, spoken in the brimstone cadence of a C.O.G.I.C. Sunday morning, is “He is the god of everything, or he is the god of nothing.” Setting aside for the moment the, well, inhuman pressure inherent in that strict binary proposition, it’s at least a sure bet that if said deity is a post-punk fan – and really, think about it, what god wouldn’t be? – he is at a minimum very pleased indeed to hear his omnipotent self referenced on an album of such, shall we say, mighty grace and crashing creational verve. One imagines a devilishly angelic smile creasing his godly mug as this San Francisco band’s second record plays out, brimming with darkness and light.

That impassioned rant segues into “Face in the Crowd,” a track layered with a shimmering disturbance of guitars (James Levis and singer Eric Miranda sharing channels) that chime and lurk in equal measure – that blended sonic contrast the source of In Letter Form’s tensile strength at every step – Miranda’s vulnerably bellowing vocal in its icy desperation like a voice in an encroaching wilderness, one laced with an anxious, hounding rhythm (Andrew Lopez drums, Peter Dosanjh bass) that rather ensures a sense of delicious menace. It’s a dynamic way to announce their second album, throbbing with immediacy like that, but it is, after all, how ILF operate, a fact the rest of the record – the couple of mindful interludes notwithstanding – proves in a relentlessly faithful fashion.

The slowed, burning “Won’t Get the Best of Me,” next up, rises and hovers with a steely elegance of will, Donsanjh in a looming mood, Levis’s guitar tracing the cold outline of the stars, “Wait Now” teams up its guitars in some sort of glacier-slicing event before gliding into what may well be the album’s strongest hook, though it gets some flashing competition from the Echo-ey pull of “High Line,” emerging full-blown with a dynamic surge and blessed with both a hard-lived poignancy and a chorus the Chameleons would’ve paid the devil for, and that’s not to even mention penultimate track “Reflecting the Rain,” glowing with a gorgeous emotive ruin raining down on the world like nothing in 1981 ever quite managed. Running back through this album, one obviously gives pause to those tracks – like “111” and the darkly reflective “Mal de Mar” that closes the record – that sway like shrouds in the day’s last breeze, imperishable highlight honors may have to go to “Edison’s Medicine.”

The other track on F.F.R. that launches in the wake of a sampled, existential voiceover, this one, calm and sans any sense of damnation as it gently unshackles death from fear, comes courtesy the deathless Alan Watts, whose eternally reasonable tone lays a lucent and immersive groundwork. The band, no fools, wisely follow suit, spinning hypnotically into a chimed trance, all smoky glassine guitars and the steady mortal pulse of a drumbeat that’s like the vale of tears’ own metronome, Miranda intoning over it all in a state of resigned satori. Like life itself, where “Edison’s Medicine” ends up surprises, as what’s already a crushingly lovely tune is further enhanced by a near two-minute coda that suggests a ruminative Smiths exploring sophic depths in a way that Moz could only dare hint at.

An album beginning in the pulpit’s incendiary heat, Fracture.Repair.Repeat maintains that fire through to the final track – the brief, synth-draped “Mal de Mer” that wonders where the self’s gone in all this rain and chaos – dazzling inside its own self-made, gloriously yearning gloom, wielding passion in the face of uncertainty no matter how grave. All of which is to say, we couldn’t recommend it more.

[Fracture. Repair. Repeat. available here]