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Fred Abong - Fear Pageant (Disc Drive)

23 August 2023

I have heard it said by many story and songwriters that they often start with a title and then explore where such inspiration takes them. That may work for some, but Fred Abong has a different perspective. As with previous albums Homeless, Pulsing and OMOPH and now with his latest, Fear Pageant the title track is always written last, more a comment or afterword on the album itself, one that seeks to encompass all the ideas and moods that the album is a crucible for.

So the track “Fear Pageant” is the logical place to dip our toes in the water before taking the plunge. It’s a song based on crisp rhythmic acoustic guitar, minimal beats, and Abong’s trademark hushed and haunting vocals – unpolished, raw-edged, and lyrically compelling. And as a taster for the album as a whole, it is perfect.

A new guitar may have impacted the music he made this time out, and adding new bits of tech has enabled him to make his first indeed DIY album. “Father” is full of wisdom and mystique, “Hungry Ghost” is gravelly and truly spectral, reaching down into the Stygian gloom for inspiration, and “America 808” is a slow gothic ballad looking at the darker experience of the so-called American Dream.

Something dark and delicious is going on here, minimal yet musical, songs based on atmosphere and anticipation as much as what the instruments play and the voice says. It skirts the realms of the likes of Nick Cave but traverses the same territory in the musical trappings of a bedroom busker, making its blend of poeticism and off-kilter musical style, soul-searching and twisted yet honest romance, more human, more accessible.

As always, it is a great album that trades bombastic for a kind of broken beauty, musical muscle for understated melody, and common cliche for extraordinary sonic exploration.

Order the ‘Fear Pageant’ LP
My Way video
Father video