Suspended Animation

  • Fantomas
  • Ipecac
  • 2005-04-05

Fantomas’ fourth studio outing is, true-to-form, housed in a fascinating sleeve, or rather in a fascinating calendar depending upon whether or not it’s the limited edition. Hundreds of tiny pictures of endearing and devilish children, screwed-up faces, innocent eyes, burning buildings, plasters, aggression, swearing, playing, fighting, crying, driving, destruction and noise. The artwork is that of Yoshitomo Nara, famous for his cutesy portrayals of twisted little sisters and brothers. His drawings adeptly combine both lightness and dark in the almost naive evil of the children, and this offers a perfect comparison to the music it packages.

Fantomas have always shown a lighter side to themselves despite their intense and harrowing overall feel. First album Fantomas was full of moments where a more comic side came out, similar to those of those B-movie horror films that the album perfectly suited as a soundtrack. Then The Director’s Cut, which actually contained the soundtracks they previously suggested at, included some much lighter fare, though often drawn out to deeper and darker depths, such as the lounge feel of “Charade” or “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”. But the sheer epicness and operaticness of Fantomas has generally often had a more pleasant edge, like the Hawaiian break amongst the harrowing noise of Delirium Cordia, and Suspended Animation builds on this nicely.

…the usual vocal acrobatics are obviously present but there appears to be more keyboards and electronics, samplers and production work than ever before

The overall sound of the album is much more like the debut than anything else but there is a distinctly different feel. Fantomas have always been more Mike Patton’s baby than any other of his bands with him basically writing, arranging and producing most of the music, the first album can be heard sounding not dissimilar to the released version but played by Patton in demo form. Suspended Animation has much more of a feel of Patton instrumentally or through sound-effects. The usual vocal acrobatics are obviously present but there appears to be more keyboards and electronics, samplers and production work than ever before. The overall sound created is much more quirky and comic-book though still combining this with extreme punk, metal and noise. Where the first album felt straightforwardly like a horror B-movie soundtrack, and their most recent release at points is definitely in the same territory, it is soundtracking a cartoon, the samples heavily helping this feel, and also soundtracking the fairground, but in a particularly strange town. If the dance hall in Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962) contained Daffy Duck and friends and groups of children chuckling to themselves, then Fantomas would be seen on the stage.

These little nuggets of twisted genius, or “30 miniature holidays in 43 minutes” to quote the sleeve, aren’t anything you wouldn’t expect from Fantomas if you’ve heard them before but they do offer perfect example of what they do, and though its not quite as different and adventurous as their previous offerings have been, as a band they definitely still generally are both of those things and this album is well worth a listen; you wont hear music quite the same as this anywhere else.

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