INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY - Shadows, Wind Blows, Hurry Up, Protect The Fire...

International Friendship Society - Shadows, Wind Blows, Hurry Up, Protect The Fire...

11 songs
45:58 minutes
***** ****


Good things often take a lot of time to come to happen. The origins of International Friendship Society go back to the late Nineties, when Lockjaw's Fred Groborsch was touring with his then hardcore band in Japan together with the Japanese emo kings Envy. Sakiyo Tobita, married to Envy's Masahiro Tobita, confided that she did some lo-fi recordings for Japanese independent labels. In 2002, work started on IFS, a collective of many people from Germany and Japan. Fred Goborsch and Scumbucket's Guido Lucas were responsible for the European aspect, while Sakiyo Tobita recorded vocals in her apartment in Japan. Guest appearances come from the late free jazz legend Peter Kowald (who used to play a lot with free sax pioneer Peter Brötzmann) who did some of his last recordings on this album, also two members from Envy do their contributions.

The album is neither emo core nor free jazz, although a lot of emotions and free spirit have gone in to this marvellous debut album. It's impossible to describe it in a few words, you need to listen to it from beginning to end, to live through its different emotions. It all starts with a minimalist piano piece called Beside You, the hushed vocals giving a first impression of the album's inherent fragility. The following Message In A Bottle cements this attitude, with IFS deconstructing the originally quite energetic Police song into some kind of sonic butterfly. The seven minute long Sora is a tour de force, guiding their minimalism into ambient territories, reminding at times of Otomo Yoshihide's more experimental works. Your Story is the album's most commercial song, which doesn't mean much in this context, although its closeness to certain My Bloody Valentine pieces should say enough of its power. These four pieces are the first highlight, with the next four pieces delivering more of the same: lo-fi, dream pop, hushed vocals straining against the background noises of traffic and birds. The last two songs are striving for perfection again, with Co-Pilot being the ideal example of an anti-pop song, with a haunting melody hiding in the minimalist instrumental backdrop. (), the last song, starts very ambient and ends the album in an unusual orchestral arrangement.

This album is mostly poetry and art, both the vocals and the music. It's nothing you listen to just to have some background noise on. This is something you need to enjoy consciously. A lot of work has gone into this labour of love, and it deserves your full attention. Difficult at times it is, but it is ultimately rewarding. The atmospheres that Sigur Ros have failed to create on their last album can be tasted here in scarily intimate surroundings. It's a striptease of the soul, and also one of the album highlights of this year. Absolutely enjoyable!

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