Listening to the sonic spectacle of “Fog Magic,” the second track on “Perennial,” you would be forgiven for thinking its creators were Icelandic.
It may come as a surprise, then, that “Fog Magic,” an achingly cinematic and breathtaking track evocative of Sigur Ros, was written not by people in touch with the natural miracles of glaciers, volcanoes and fjords, but instead by people more familiar with the more humble miracles of Frederick Meijer Gardens, small West Michigan towns and Cornerstone University.
Yes, Filmloom, the writers of this triumphant and seminal work, are in fact local.
Filmloom, a fixture of the local Grand Rapids music scene, has amassed a keen following for their musically extravagant live shows.
With only two members, Eric Tempelaere (vocals, keys, drums) and Brandon Bowker (trumpet, keys, drums), the electronica outfit are known for their ability to use an intricate arrangement of pedals and loops to create a rich and sonically mysterious sound far beyond their members.
Their audiences would often find themselves unsure how to react to the overwhelming soundscape – alternating between dancing and standing in shocked awe.
The 14 tracks on Filmloom’s long-awaited first full-length album, “Perennial,” are all written live. They have the mark of songs well played and tested, with every creative angle examined.
The result is something of a musical sample platter, as songs grow and flourish into unexpected places. “Persona,” for example, starts off as a tilted jazz piece with trumpet and piano solos but ends in a swelling of glitch-fueled electronica, as a chorus of Kanye-style vocals laments in the background.
With each new verse of every song comes an unexpected surprise – retro drum samples give way to an increasingly complicated live arrangement — steady piano gives way to a wave of syncopated synths.
Tempelaere, a master of vocal transformation, alternates between ethereal falsettos, fierce proclamations and breathy intonations.
Filmloom’s sound is an ambitious combination of seeming contradictions. Minimalistic beats go hand-in-hand with maximalist noise. Anguished, distorted auto-tune croons over layered trumpet and violins.
In the same vein of Sufjan Steven’s maximalist “The Age of Adz,” “Perennial” is a wild sonic freak-out. From the opening harp and birdsong of “Eden” to the violent six-minute nosebleed crash of “Eye Color,” “Perennial” is surprisingly coherent and catchy for its wide palette of influences and instrumentation, never too busy or self-indulgent.
“Perennial,” as its name suggests, is an album wholly concerned with life itself, with all its triumphs, disappointments and indeterminate chaos. “I am just an animal!” Tempelaere sings in “Appaloosa.”
Lyrically, “Perennial” is abstract – focusing on themes and imagery instead of characters or narrative. It is sound that takes center stage here – ambitious, spacious and indulgent sound.
“Perennial,” a rare and surprising triumph, is a testimony that music itself – rich, stirring and, at times challenging, can be as indicative of life as breathing is. And that, despite Filmloom’s cinematic name, it is sound — not sight — that stirs our sleeping souls out of dormancy.