Faunts M4

[Friendly Fire; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: synth-rock, poptronica
Others: Tear For Fears, The Cure, Starflyer 59

Since forming in the later days of 2000, Faunts -- the plucky trio of Tim and Steven Batke and drummer Paul Arnusch -- have developed a successful reputation as a touring band, playing the CMJ festival and opening for such Canadian notables as Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think. Meanwhile, their sound has expanded to include contributions from bassist Scott Gallant and the keyboards of Joel Hitchcock and Rob Batke. High Expectations/Low Results, their humble debut full-length, surfaced in 2005 to a select but generally supportive critic response. Though it was remastered and re-released the following year, it ultimately failed to break them out further than their hometown, Edmonton.

Lucky for them, staying put turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as a local video game company decided to use part two of the title track from Faunts’ M4 -- an EP/mini-album originally written as a score for three silent indie films -- for the closing credits of Mass Effect. The game was a surprise hit, selling 1.6 million units in its first five weeks. In turn, this exposure led their two-year-old MySpace page to triple its profile views in just months. My dad always said he'd rather be lucky than good, but being as good as they are sure helps when that kind of lucky comes.

Justifiably hyped, "M4 (Part II)" is an eight-minute epic. The frozen drums are stolen from the ilk of New Order, chugging along under a steady drone of ’80s synths and rambling guitar, while the vocals enact a quiet call of desperation. Naturally, this is the centerpiece of the extended single, but the supporting tracks all add gloriously to the theme. “Sleepwalker,” on the other hand, is a more downtempo number, with dense, moaning guitars, synthetic drums, ethereal vocals, and layers of bright synths. It’s kinda like a humorless Joy Zipper cut with marginally flatter production. And dig the subtly reversing intro beat to “Meno Mony Falls,” which makes the contemplative progression that much more astounding.

The aesthetic of M4 is noticeably more purposeful than their debut, with choice variations between tracks that add to the whole without disrupting the overall flow. Newfound fans from the Mass Effect realm who are looking for more of the same will not be disappointed, nor will they be bored. Faunts aren't a one-trick pony. They're the real deal. As such, I can't see these guys staying in Edmonton much longer.

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