Review: Filmloom’s debut album “Perennial”
Alright, we’re going to start this with an unanswerable philosophical question: What is beauty? We can delve all the way back to Plato’s discussions on aesthetics for answers, but I’m going to turn to French poet Charles Baudelaire for a bit of insight. To quote: “I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.”
Some translate that last word differently- “unhappiness”, “despair”, etc. – but the point, to me, remains the same: something that is truly beautiful feels yearned for, distant, otherwordly, unattainable, too-perfect. The beautiful contrasts with the imperfect world that surrounds it. This tension, this balance, is what separates the subversively beautiful from the sentimental. It’s why Baudelaire named his book The Flowers of Evil.
Filmloom makes beautiful music. They’re a band that can cite Sigur Ros as an influence in their bio and somehow it doesn’t come off as wishful thinking. Based in Ionia, MI, and made up of Eric Tempelaere and Brandon Bowker, Filmloom creates what they term “Cinematic Pop”, which, okay, I do get irked when bands try to come up with their own little niche-y genre names, but the connection makes sense. The songs on their debut LP Perennial are very widescreen with big buildups and huge swells. It’s mountaintop music. It’s watercolor horizons with a soft focus lens. When you listen to it, you can easily imagine time-lapse videos of starscapes swinging through the horizons and butterflies crawling out of cocoons and birds flying in slow-mo over rainforests.
That’s not to say it’s merely “uplifting”-car-commercial-hey-hey-let’s go!-Edward-Sharpe kind of trash. On the contrary, it avoids sentimentality by bringing in some really unexpected arrangements and strange, inventive sounds– the melancholy which Baudelaire so lauded. “Moon Cycle”, for example, is filled with ugly bubbling squiggles ping-ponging around a rigid arpeggio, finding that balance between a head-bobbing beat and destabilizing weirdness. Several moments are quiet and dainty, like “Genetic”, while others soar, like “Fog Magic”, the latter exhibiting a particularly moving melody, probably the finest on the album.
Perennial, then, is not a one-trick pony, but an exploration of many ideas within a certain sound. That sound is full of cellos, flutes, strings, tribal drums, soft synth pads, and lasers blasts. It’s not catchy, but it’s crazy melodious.
On the downside, the album might overstay its welcome for some. At 72 minutes, a whole listen is a bit like gorging yourself on really rich cheesecake; a little restraint would have gone a long way in bringing me back to this record again and again. One can only take so many orchestrated crescendos before wanting something straightforward, and ironically, it’s the straightforward tracks where Filmloom struggle. I could have done without “Body Language”, which never develops beyond its initial ideas and kind of kills the album’s early momentum. The tepid political rhetoric on “Non-Violence” isn’t really my cup of tea because it doesn’t say anything interesting beyond what its title says. “Habits” is just them on autopilot.
But these are small and picky gripes I have. The highpoints on this album are impressive, and the overall sound of the record can be deeply moving at times, bewildering at others, but it’s always beautiful. Baudeliare would have listened.