Philco Fiction - Take It Personal
Philco Fiction are the work of three people from Norway, Turid Solberg (pronounced Tue-rid), and Anders and Bjarne. The two boys appear to be the backroom bods, producing and arranging the songs of Turid. And what a job they've all done. This is a beautiful album, that at first glance is all surface over some nice pop songs.
But dig a bit beneath the surface of this and we are taken into an interesting world, where all that glitters is not the proverbial gold. Turid creates a world of unease, mainly with herself, but also with her surroundings. Take, for example, 'The City', all swoony synths and brass, it has a bit of a Stina Nordenstaam feeling about it, like something off of her And She Closed Her Eyes album, but where that album felt more bucolic, this has a city claustrophobia about it…Lines like "Should I drink alone, should I live alone, should I eat alone..?" betray a sense of someone shutting down in the city, or is it shut away from something.
The sense of this runs throughout the album from the declaration in 'The Youth' of "I gave you everything I have but honesty" over keyboards and vibes with strings in the latter part of the track giving it something of a murder mystery backing, to album centerpiece, 'Too Nice' and "I change my name to a new you, go changing my clothes...I'm desperate for change." These are not the words of someone comfortable in their own skin. The 'Tubular Bells' like motif running through this song also increases the intensity at work here.
There's a lot at work beneath these songs, the Theremin flushes, these lyrics, the vibes and live instruments over the synths giving this album enough of a slant to separate it from the hordes of albums out there in a similar vein.
Highlights of the album for me were 'Finally', a tale of a fleeting affair. "Your heart is colder than the winter of 81, my mind was made up in the winter of 82." Simple piano lines lead to brushed drums starting to build alongside brass about 1.30 in, the piano wrestling focus back to at 2 minutes.. This feels like it's going somewhere; bouncing along towards a payoff that never quite arrives. It seems apt.
That and the skittering opening, 'Help!', with it's lines about a bird boy, falling like a feather. Turid asks "Will I have patience with you?", and it's a good question. The song carries on like something by mid-period Prince, and this is thoroughly a good thing. There are glimpse of this throughout the album, and in a way it's a shame that they aren't explored further.
Ambitious penultimate track, 'Portrait of silence' is a seven minute stunner. It starts small, although not quietly around simple piano and basic percussion, Turid sings "I buy a ticket to your show, they say it it's a one of a kind show…" and things start to take off from there, the piano becomes more insistent, and with a couple of minutes to go the intensity if ramped up about three notches. If this isn't a set closer then someone needs to have a series of words with them. It's the kind of song that you wouldn't come back for an encore after; you'd be spent.
And yet, the album manages to close on an upbeat note with 'Time is a Fly', which has something of a Goldfrapp feel to it to begin with, but this doesn't last and it twists off into something more akin to Lykke Li. There is a slight feeling of two songs being cut and shut together, and some times that works. This is one of them, although you can see the join.
If I had to pick holes, I'd want a bit more of the Prince-style wig outs sprinkled over this, but by all accounts Philco Fiction put on something of a show, so maybe outside of the studio we will see a bit more of that. It all bodes well. There's plenty here to make Norway proud.