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Review: Fatigue – Illusory Things

I’m going to level with you here. This review is a complete re-write; my first go-around was, essentially, what would amount to an attempt to recap an acid trip. Sparing Dear Reader such a tale, suffice it to say that my first experience with “Illusory Things” by Lowell-based synth master Fatigue, in a dark room with the headphones on, felt less like listening to an album and more like being taken by the GRU to some defunct Soviet-era industrial zone and introduced to an underground music scene filled with seedy characters and lots of repurposed military equipment. I’d tell you more, but as is the nature of these things, if I did, I’d have to kill you. 

Back in the real world, however, and in keeping with the parlance of the times, “this album fuckin slaps kid.” I don’t say this lightly. I am no expert on genre; I don’t deign to categorize music much beyond the simplicity of “listenable” or “unlistenable.” Before I listened to the album all I could rightly say was that it fell under the broad umbrella of Synth Shit. And my goodness, Fatigue delivers the synth with this. In fact, Fatigue more than delivers; Fatigue brings everything to the table here, complete with fine wrapping and accoutrements befitting one of stature in society. In short; ‘tis a gift! 

It is important to note that the first track on the album is one of those tricks of proper music making that, unfortunately for modern times, seems to be increasingly difficult to find. That’s right- an intro track. In my mind, having an intro track makes a big difference between an album being a collection of material, or, A STATEMENT. And Fatigue’s use of an intro track here serves this purpose exactly. It says to the listener, “Buckle up- there’s something doin’.” The song itself is called Outro (you devil, you), but I interpret this as being something along the lines of saying “this is not the beginning of the end; it is the end of the beginning.” One could draw conclusions; is all of this world cyclical? Do things just continually revolve, ever in motion but never moving forward? How many licks does it truly take? 

Lyrically, the album seems to focus on a few themes; what I pull from it is a motif of despair tinged with cautious optimism (the world will turn green, once it has turned to ash). The songs deal with the struggle between outward appearance and internal identity, of the futility of things, of a lurking anger that is beginning to break through the walls built around it. Yet, despite the relative melancholy, it nonetheless feels that there is more than just dismay- it feels like this darkness is transformative. As if though confronting it and accepting it is in fact the way to move through and beyond it. It’s the kind of feeling that one gets when they know that they’re in a prison, but once they break through the iron bars, there will be a beautiful world outside waiting. Indeed, Fatigue describes the album on Bandcamp as “songs of mortality, identity, unrest, societal collapse, and bitterly dancing on the ruins out of spite.” Top marks, mate, you’ve hit it dead on. The album is strong, yet vulnerable. It is like a tender grandfather whose heart is soft but whose hands feel like leather reins. It’s got that old man strength to it. You can talk to this album about your heartbreak but you can also depend on it to be able to change a tire for you. 

Musically, the album is a perfect blend of {again, not knowing, so what I believe to be} the gothic, the industrial, the electronic. But this belies the symphonic nature of the music; there is more going on here than robotic beeps and boops- much more. The music builds and swells, it retreats into valleys, and it rebounds. It is well-mixed, each voice having its identifiable part yet never entirely separate from the whole. It is sonically pleasing, and the movement of the instrumentation perfectly matches and complements the lyrical content. It’s, simply put, quite well done. In fact, this is one of those rare “local” albums where you feel like- you know, maybe Fatigue is on a different level from the rest of us; maybe Fatigue has transcended that weird, almost undefinable line between “local” and “national” level performance. It’s certainly bigger than the dive bars of Lowell and it’s the kind of music that would benefit from large scale sound systems; many “local” acts would sound thin or lacking in this setting. Fatigue would be right at home. And there’s some waltz stuff going on. One can never underestimate the value of a dark as hell waltz. Kudos. 

Although I would be hard pressed to find a song I don’t like on this one, I think the album really closes out strong- that’s where it truly hits its stride, though admittedly it lacks any missteps prior. Specifically, the last three songs. The run from “Mundane Apocalypse” through the terminal “No Funeral” appears to me to be a movement within the album. I don’t know if it was done intentionally or not, but it’s just a great example of putting songs together in the right place and ending everything with a passionate flourish. 

Don’t take my word for it; do yourself a favor and listen to the damn thing already. It deserves to be heard. It WANTS to be found. It should be played loudly and frequently. You will not be remiss but you will certainly be enriched.

-Mario Boiardi