Polyfox is a bedroom solo project helmed by Nicholas French, who is best known for his work with Newcastle groups Crab Smasher and Brassskulls. This, his first solo release, is an awkwardly pieced together side of a c60 cassette, performed with an aching juvenile uncertainty, autistic in its desire to create a womb-like sonic environment to dwell within.
It’s pure and simple pop music, though there are no lyrics, no explanations, no elaborations. There are hooks everywhere however, and theres barely any chance a listener won’t register the prevalent sense of yearning smeared onto these 15 short vignettes. Fundamental to these songs is a certain passive, enveloping melancholy; you get the feeling that French is confident and comfortable with his sadness. With song titles like ‘Passive Polyfox Surrounded by Horror’ and ‘Bright Fox In Dull Forest’ it’s as if French has actively avoided burdening us with overt sentimentality, so instead he takes the more whimsical faux-conceptual route to expressing himself.
The marvellous thing about this album is that this approach works: there’s a gentle sadness to this music that won’t be reined in by comic relief. French’s means are severely limited – he records onto a four track with guitars and synth, rarely voice – and thus it feels like these pieces are channelled rather than played. There are moments here that recall Alps of New South Wales in their fatalistic spiral towards painful self-revelation, though in Polyfox’s case no overly caustic bits are ever revealed.
Newcastle is a gutted city of wide, uninhabited main streets and boarded up commercial buildings. The Union Of The Most Ghosts feels like a pertinent and personal, do-or-die purging of the mendacity of suburban life: a colourful, fantastical interpretation of monotony. The roughshod sonics embellish the compositional starkness with a life force, as if French has pricked his finger and wiped a blood drop onto the recording heads. One of the most revealing moments is found in a covert recording of drunks arguing at a train station: the argument proceeds until the station PA announces the train’s route, northward to Newcastle. For all the amateur gusto of what precedes it – the longing reverberated guitar pieces, the demo-button synth noodlings – this moment grounds The Union Of The Most Ghosts in a profound way. These songs capture moments of transitive loneliness, momentary lapses of faith. It articulates the infinitesimal feelings we forget about: ghostly feelings that are there, yet we don’t believe in their substance. It’s a poignant little album, if you let it be.
By Shaun Prescott