Fauna Valetta - Fauna Valetta

Chris Dunn 18/11/2008

Rating: 3/5

No idea where this band has come from, where they're going or what their story is but I know I love this debut album. It's got character and attitude bursting at the seams and a sort of twisted charm that comes about from a group who sound like they care less about the latest hip scene or developing trend, and more about playing what they want to hear.

If you like your music clean cut with sharp lines and pretty colours then granted this will be a struggle to your ears, but if you can appreciate the constant unsteadiness and off-kilter undercurrent running throughout you'll find yourself at home here no doubt. Right from the off the short instrumental introduction paves the way with meandering organ, reminiscent of some aspects of The BJM's 'And This Is Our Music', giving way to the pounding Sleep By The Ocean that drives home the band's intent with deafening style, some massive, spiralling screeches of guitar and an almost British sneer on the vocals.

First and foremost this sounds like a band who aren't adverse to a bit of volume and on first listen subtlety isn't something that springs to mind. Energy, four songs in, changes all that in an instant though. As cool as you like, it induces an instant swagger to your step with a lazy, slow rolling beat and gets away with some cheeky off the cuff licks a la mid '90s Noel Gallagher. Nothing wrong with that in my book by the way. It's all wrapped up in the same haze the album's recorded in, loose and lived in and with an on-the-edge rawness you can't help but be drawn into. It's nice to hear an album cut with feeling and have some of the chaos of the recording left in for you to digest.

The bands that can capture a moment instinctively have it above those that can't or won't and on those terms Fauna Valetta are sitting pretty. Check out standout track, Wait, to see for yourself, a real head spinner, constantly shifting and rising, sounding like their lives depend on it and dragging you into the vortex in the process. Contrast this euphoria with the beautifully down and out The Flood, with its talk of “drunken dreams” and promises to “die here with or without you”, and you've got a band who can wring the highs and lows out of life and get it down on tape seamlessly.

There's something original, natural, free and a little unhinged about this debut from Oakland, California's Fauna Valetta, but crucially the songs and structure are still strong and there's more than enough magic here to attract what I suspect could be an initially small but steadily growing audience.