On ‘Future Proof’, Ōtepoti resident American French Fries (Kaine Harington) continues to depart from the more acoustic sound of three previous instrumental albums, creating similarly introspective but far more electronic soundscapes.
First track, VHS, makes this new sonic palette apparent with driving, gritty, and screeching sound design, tied together by rattling hats and a semi-consistent beat. The surging bass pairs well with downcast synths and together they drag listeners through the track. Though the tones of each track differ, this feeling of being pulled along carries across the whole project.
The synthesised and gritty sonics reappear throughout the album with varying degrees of strength, but the electronic feel is mediated with more acoustic and soulful instrumentation – reminiscent of American French Fries’ earlier work. Homevideo features live drums and keys lending it a more cinematic feel, but still captures the morose and nostalgic energy of the LP. This is then immediately contrasted by Probability which, for lack of a better term, has IDM-like micro grooves and ratcheted hats, backed by haunting pads, and beefed up with a crunchy, growling bass.
The difference between these two tracks highlights the range of influences and production methods bought together on this project. Harington successfully marries many different sonic palettes to create emotive instrumental songs. Each feels like something new in comparison to the last, yet they make tonal sense when laid next to one another.
Another sound design comparison between two tracks which highlights Harington’s new approach is the use of electronic leads and arpeggios on Replicative Fade, and New World Airport Commission. The former has a bell-like lead, dripping with characterful saturation and vibrato, then employs a surprising bassy arpeggio sequence to usher in a new section with a very different feel. The latter instead opts for a chirpy arp to carry the track. A sustained electric lead enters later, and is then reinforced by a lower synth following the same notes. Whilst these ideas can come off as rather simple, they resound and resolve in an emotionally impactful way. This allows for the accompanying sonics to further shape the tone and feel of each track, complementing – without intruding on – the elements at the forefront.
These ideas are interestingly further brought to life in final trackTheme For A Baby Boy. Ukulele arpeggios and plucked melodies intertwine in a fittingly lullaby-ish way, however a dark churning underlies this – adding tension to an otherwise sweet, plucky, number.
‘Future Proof’ pairs evolving and unstable textures with crooning instrumentation to make for a work which is almost painfully nostalgic. It is soaked in melancholy, yet still makes room for optimism. Cyclical at times but at others surprising, transitions bring exploding, full range, sections or dramatic absences, giving the album a dynamic feel where one isn’t sure what will follow.