Frequently enjoyed album
The term ‘slowcore’ doesn’t really do justice to this album, conjuring as it does images of painfully protracted, po-faced minimalist post-rock. ‘Frequently Asked Questions‘ is nothing of the sort. I bought this album on a whim on its release in 2001 and still find myself playing it periodically six years later. It’s not just the seductive swoon of its music that draws me back but also the strength and permanence of the songwriting. Yes, ‘Frequently Asked Questions‘ is slow, but not by some willful act of experimentation, but in a reverie of loss and love that imbues every sound with a resonance and extraordinary ambience. Every note is clear and precise, glowing in space; nothing is wasted. There is a folksy Englishness to it, but also an ethereal quality to it; both intimate and unworldly.
The percussion has a shuffly, dinner-jazz quality to it, a soft foundation embellished with guitar – acoustic and steel – trumpet, strings and oboe. My personal highlights include the mournful trumpet on the opener, ‘Are You Satisfied’, which segues into the music so seemlessly it could make you weep. Elsewhere, the guitar refrain on ‘Now We Can Get On With Our Own Lives’ mirrors the vocal melody in a oddly sedative slow-motion call-and-response. Futhermore, the cover version of Tim Buckley’s ‘Once I Was’ is actually better than the original. Go on, take a chance like I did, and be forever grateful for having bought this criminally underrated album. A somnambulant mini-masterpiece of dream pop!