8 Track, LP (2011, Other Tongues)
Related: Hugo Race.
The unpremeditated solo album is usually destined, because of its spontaneous birth, to herald a new beginning for a songwriter. Previously unknown reserves of inspiration will be tapped, elusive demons may be purged, and new sonic colours will be dabbed into life. For Hugo Race, an artist with several distinct voices, the defining factor here is theme: any talk of aesthetic development with regard to Race is irrelevant in light of last year’s Between Hemispheres, a strange global/electronica/ambient hybrid completely at odds with this newer record, or anything he’s done with his best known outlets The True Spirit and the Wreckery. Hugo is all over the place, and according to notes on his website he’d never planned to make this record anyway: “It just kind of happened.”
After the left-turn of Between Hemispheres, Fatalists sounds grounded, rooted back at home and back inside the head. It may appear to be an album about death, but it actually sounds more like a record about overcoming it. Even so, death isn’t the only thing tackled here, nor is it the only thing “overcome”. Race explains some of the themes of Fatalists in the liner notes, and the recurrent attitude is one of wielding obstacles to some ultimately beneficial end. In his notes accompanying ‘Slow Fry’, a song about insomnia, Race speaks of wanting to “harness it’s force”, whereas ‘Too Many Zeroes’ is about feeling small in a world of “binary overload”. Race implores us to, “Make of that what you can, and get used to it.”
These philosophies, mostly buried deep within oblique, imagery driven lyrics, cast a thoughtful pallor over an album that could have been unrelentingly bleak. Recorded at the height of a white Italian winter during a bout of pneumonia, Race allowed his band to work on these tracks largely unsupervised, but it's testament to his evocative lyrics that sound and words are at harmony across the record. Cosmetically, Fatalists fits the mould of most Melbourne musicians who fled to Europe in the early ’80s, wavering as it does between sombre electric highway ballads and stomping backwater melodrama. And yet with only six original songs and two covers (Lead Belly's 'In The Pines' and Mysteries' 'Will You Wake Up') it doesn't feel like a major album, but more an impulsive and introspective dispatch.
by Shaun Prescott