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Foster Parents - Idle Archipelago

- Review & Stream -

An ominous atmospheric swell segues into a staggered guitar riff, drenched in what can only be described as classic Fender tone. Cut the vocals, drop in some samples of dialogue from who-knows-what and layer on that beautiful second guitar.

That’s the gist of the first track, titled “(Cavemouth)” on the newest EP from China’s

To be honest, when it comes to math/indie acts from this side of the world, I’ve never given much thought to what’s coming out of China. But Foster Parents are making me rethink that whole mindset. I’m now firmly into a deep dive to see what the Land of Dragons and Emperors has to offer. Idle Archipelago is the follow-up release to 2017’s Grim - both out via Guangzhou’s Qii Snacks Records. Idle Archipelago bounces back and forth between thoughtfully crafted math rock pieces and harmoniously vibing indie rock riffs that verge on anthemic. The band seems to kick traditional vocals to the side, instead opting for spoken samples to lovingly convey the voiced message they’ve so carefully crafted with their instruments. The records second track, “Jacob’s Rest” is minimalist at times with airy, spacious guitars and intricately crafted drums.  Then, out of nowhere the song kicks into overdrive with both guitars throwing out a feel-good riff that will make you nod your head to the rocking rhythms. Minor Species” follows directly afterwards and really brings the tone down with the opening riff - an almost sad lullaby that hits you in the heart. It quickly switches into a riff that’s clearly meant to be a continuation of the previous track - borrowing the vibe of the stop-and-go section previously heard. The breaks between sections have a great bouncy, borderline dance-able quality to them. The sampling of children throughout the track lends to a vaguely innocent quality when coupled with the rest of the instrumentation. It all almost makes me nostalgic for spring days back when I was in primary school. “(heliotrope)” seems to be the next break in movements on the record. The smattering of these short tracks act as a passage from one segment of the EP to the next, separating chunks of the record by a theme or feeling .  This is a spacey, almost surreal vibe that offers a bridge to get into the next full song, “Bewilderness” - which continues that almost ethereal quality, but slightly more grounded. There’s a lot happening in this song - riffs with solid alt-rock tendencies, dirty over-driven guitar tones that break up in all the right ways; not to mention the continuation of artfully written drum riffs. This is just an absolutely fantastic track, probably one of my top picks from the whole record. The sixth track is “A Voice from the Gallery”. There’s a part at 2:05 where the guitars start tapping, the bass drops out and the drums are left to create a rhythm on the snare rims - that part kills me, it’s so perfect. The folks in Foster Parents rock on that riff as a full band for a bit and then bring it down a few notches with a nice mellow part, steeped with jazz influence. “(husk)”, the seventh track and final interlude of the record is a sparse and fascinating track.  The only instrumentation here is what sounds to be an old Fender Rhodes electric piano. The melody is haunting and the reverberations makes me feel like I’m sitting in the room being personally serenaded by the band. There’s an audio clip weaving in and out that sounds as if somebody is taking a bath or washing something off, which is interesting to me because I don’t fully understand the meaning. At the very end, a cacophonous orchestral crescendo rises quickly and dies off as quickly and it started, leading directly into the frantic opening guitar riff of “Turning of the Bones” - the final track of the record. Turning of the Bones” is constantly moving, dancing around upbeat grooves and scant mellow riffs creating a nice dynamic. A short break for the drums to bring up the tempo with a quick fill and the guitars thunderously chime back in with creamy distortion that’s sure to put a smile on your face and make your foot tap. All in all, this record is absolutely fantastic. Foster Parents wasn’t on my radar previously, but my God - what an incredible band.  Idle Archipelago is a cohesive piece of musical genius - not a record of songs that were slapped together randomly, but more akin to a composer masterfully crafting a symphonic score. Some folks prefer to pass on instrumental math and indie records, which is an absolute shame because this release has a certain panache that shouldn’t be slept on. Enjoy! Favorite tracks:  “Bewilderness” & “Turning of the Bones - Sean D.


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