The Occupant is already the fourth studio album by Justin Curfman’s Feeding Fingers. Curfman, an extremely creative centipede, could be considered some kind of sophisticated DIY wonder, who has full control over all his artistic output.
|Feeding Fingers: "The Occupant" (2013)|
Since I’ve been following Curfman from his first CD release in 2007, Wound in Wall, I’ve clearly noticed a development in his musical output. From the moment I first heard Feeding Fingers I have been shouting around that The Cure had already had its best days and seem to have become more a kind of indie band instead of the mysterious post-punk/new wave group they used to be and that Feeding Fingers was their follow up – their replacement. I heard Feeding Fingers do what I would have liked The Cure to do into the 21st cenutry, but they simply just didn’t. So, in a way, Feeding Fingers filled in a gap of inspiration for me from early 80’s post-punk and new wave, without being a copycat - always knowing that new albums coming from Feeding Fingers would contain some wonderful, new and creative material in their own unique style and sound. Because one thing is for sure: Feeding Fingers has its very own sound that can be recognized from miles away by only hearing the first notes of any of their songs. And this, in my opinion, is something to be very proud of for any band.
And it is that very unique sound that I’m talking about which is, I think, coming to a peak on Feeding Fingers’ latest album, The Occupant - the album about which I will try to give a decent review here, because that is what, I believe, this work deserves.
After Curfman moved to Germany from the United States in 2010, he found himself stranded in a kind of writer’s block. Only the song Blisters First dates from this period. The rest of the songs were written in 2012. When he finally got to the point of working steadily on a new album, Curfman kept his fans up-to-date via Facebook. His messages made them very curious about the direction he was going with this album. He would mention things like recording with a young, Austrian choir boy, learning how to make a track on some old music box and recording real violin with a guest musician. All of these things he would post here and there on Feeding Fingers’ Facebook wall, from time to time. His creative mind really was up to something different than he had done before – this was an easy interpretation to make from all of this. And he was.
|"Eine Einladung in Ihr Gesicht mit Liebe geschnitzt"|
feat. Jonas Binder
The album starts with a completely unexpected a-capella song sung by a young choir boy (Jonas Binder) containing some noise below it like it’s played from an old gramophone. It’s a two and half minute intro that doesn’t give you any clue at all about what is going to happen next. Has Justin gone mad? Have his artistic needs driven him too far away from any ‘normal’ human mind to be able to follow him any longer? No, thank God, they haven’t.
Curfman is sometimes hard to follow. And therefore maybe we shouldn’t try. What you have to do sometimes with him is to simply experience. And when you just do that, I think that the listener will find that Eine Einladung in Ihr Gesicht mit Liebe geschnitzt is a mysterious opener that prepares you for the unexpected and at the same time creates an enormous contrast to receive the next song on its very best. That is, at least, how I experience it.
|Feeding Fingers: |
"Inside the Body of an Animal"
This next song is Inside the Body of an Animal. With this song, Feeding Fingers gives us a beautiful ballad-like song with a dreamy atmosphere which is not in any way inferior to what The Cure did on Disintegration and Wish. Layers of drums, bass, synth and guitar are the basis for the piano melody and Justin’s voice completes the harmonies and lifts up the song to unfold its entire beauty. On this part we’re still in line with what I said about Feeding Fingers filling up the gap that The Cure left behind.
|Feeding Fingers: |
"Where the Threads are the Thinnest"
After the unexpected intro and two songs that we would expect from Feeding Fingers it’s time for something entirely different: I Am No One That I Know. Forget post-punk and enter the world of Justin Curfman at his best. This is a completely different level than where Feeding Fingers took us before. The acoustic sound, the indefinable ominous layer throughout the song, Justin’s storytelling singing with his darker voice added in the refrain parts is so effective to lift this song to another level that it’s simply ingenious. I never heard anything like it, making it a unique creation to me, personally. And I simply love it. Make sure you listen to this also with headphones to not miss the full effect of the second voice.
You might expect from here that we will keep on heading for more tracks like this right away. Well, we’re not. This style doesn’t continue right away. But we keep going up, that’s for sure. For the last time here I will mention The Cure. That is only because this song is at least of the level of and comparable with tracks like Prayers for Rain and Fascination Street. I am so touched by Blisters First that every time again that I hear it that shivers go down my spine and goose bumps appear on my arms. The way this songs builds up so gently into this most beautiful wall of sound and with the melody as well that Curfman plays on guitar as it compliments his voice - the feelings that are put in the piece make this song as beautiful as it is. Can one fall in love with a song? Yes, even to many songs at the same time. And I have fallen in love with at least half the tracks on this album. That is an amazing performance, in my opinion. This song is so freakin’ perfect that it’s almost scary. If Justin Curfman would want to, I am sure that he would make the Disintegration follow up that The Cure was never able to make. Anyway, he is not doing that and I’m sure it’s not his intention. He only shows that he can at times. Curfman then follows another direction which produces also tracks like the fabulous I Am No One That I Know and there’s more in that category to come on this album.
If The Occupant will ever be on vinyl, which I hope will happen one day, Blisters First would be one hell of an ending of the A side, while Auflösen Wie Familien Tun would be a wonderful opening of the B side, because,like Eine Einladung in Ihr Gesicht mit Liebe Geschnitzt , it’s an intro to the unexpected. It doesn’t give a clue where we are going from here and at the same time we feel the contrast again with Paper Dolls Would Eat Glass for Us. The latter confirms Curfman’s connection to the gothic / dark-wave scene more than any track other on the album. It’s like: “Hey guys, I also got something for you again.” It’s dark and it’s not hard to imagine Goths do their little floating dance acts on it.
Then, on the other hand, when I think about it again, Auflösen Wie Familien Tun would also be a great ending to the A side, while Paper Dolls Would Eat Glass for Us would make a great start for the B side. Well, if The Occupant is to ever be released on vinyl we know which one it’s going to be, since both choices seem good it can’t go wrong.
Like records sometimes have some songs in a row that form a connection or are especially extremely strong together, The Occupant has that on this part of the record in my opinion. This golden threesome starts with Breathing Partners. The style of this song can somewhat be compared to I Am No One That I Know, but this time with percussion. I think that the genre is called ‘Curfman’. It’s unique and awesome. Again, we hear a layer of some ominous sounds. Certainly make sure you listen to this one with headphones too. It’s made to perfection in any detail it contains. There’s so much depth in this song that you could fall into it when you’d slip on an unattended moment. It’s not so hard to fall in love with it either. It has all the excitement and beauty that only can be found in the highest level of music in general.
The second song of this golden threesome is Mine is Not the Only Voice in My Head. How fragile a song can be, that fragile this one is. The piano-based song with violin added to it by Maja Backovic (officially announced as Feeding Fingers’ newest member on May 14, 2014) gives a feeling as if one is wandering into the deepest corners of a man’s soul. One can only listen quietly and be touched by the beauty that is being revealed here.
The last song of my so-called golden threesome is I Drink Disappearing Ink. It starts as if you’re being sucked into some mysterious world, where right at the start you probably feel like you don’t want to be there. Then, already very soon when the ukulele (if I’m right about that) comes in, all of that changes! It’s not a scary world you’re entering here. It just differs from what you’re used to. The rhythm is simple but effective. When the organ starts you can really start to feel completely comfortable and nestle yourself into the song. A beautiful delicate singing melody even lifts it up to a heavenly musical experience. I could listen to this for days without ever getting bored. Goose bumps appear with the lyric ‘I drink disappearing ink to forget you…’. And I’m in love with a song again. This song also makes me think of the Talk Talk masterpiece, Spirit of Eden. Probably it’s because of the organ and its beautiful, sensitive melody. It’s a good thing when something reminds me of one of my all-time favorite albums.
This is where the album ends, almost - because it wouldn’t be a Feeding Fingers album if it weren’t to end just as mysteriously as it started.
With Walzer für eine Spieluhr Justin Curfman created his own melody on a real, hand-cranked music box. You can hear so clearly how it’s winded up and then it plays the melody. Every sound the music box makes has been recorded so clearly that it’s as if it’s standing here next to you. Anyone who ever saw one of Justin’s stop-motion animation movies with his somewhat weird puppets (to say the least) can only imagine those puppets moving around while this music box is playing Justin’s composition. It feels a bit like being left with a large question mark floating above your head. What’s next? What to do now? Is there nothing left after this? Well… all you need to do is turn over your record and play it again.
What becomes clear after having dived completely into this album is that, to me personally of course, it’s going deeper than any of Feeding Fingers’ previous three albums. The Occupant has a depth in which one can lose oneself completely. The music is layered more than ever as well.
A difficulty about making music is that most artists are often put into a box, in that you’re either a bluesman, a pop singer, a rock chick, Goth rocker, in a new-wave band… Feeding Fingers also have been put in a box by many who know them. “Feeding Fingers is a post-punk/new wave/gothic rock band or something in that area…”, most people would say after having heard some of their music. Probably until their previous album, Detach Me From My Head, it could be more or less acceptable to put them in that box. But on this album, The Occupant, Justin Curfman picks up that box, shakes it hard and then turns it around, presenting a result that gives us a completely different kind of Feeding Fingers, though still recognizable as Feeding Fingers.
This might confuse people who expect the band to stay in their box. On the other hand this should make it possible for the band to reach a new public. With Feeding Fingers I have the feeling that they still have to be discovered by a larger public. I’m sure a lot more people would enjoy this album a lot and even as much as I do.
I clearly recall the time that Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden just had been released. I was so enthusiastic about the album that I wanted to tell anyone about this revolutionary album I had heard. I felt a bit alone in it. Now it’s considered a timeless masterpiece by many. I’m a lot older now. Music has developed further and all kind of new styles have popped up. Still, once again, I feel a bit like at that time. The Occupant differs a lot from anything I have ever heard before. This album has to be heard, it deserves your attention, it cries out for a public that can feel these songs. Will you be one of them?
PERSONAL FAVORITES (in order of the album):
Inside the Body of an Animal
I Am No One That I Know
Mine is Not the Only Voice in My Head
I Drink Disappearing Ink
- Paul Tetteroo, President Sounds for Sure Records (The Netherlands)