Surely one of the most prolific artists in modern music, William Ryan Fritch’s latest album is a bombastic soup of whimsical near symphonic stomps. In recent years he’s near cornered the market for earnestly magical melancholia, yet Clean War offers something more. His sound is soupier than ever before. For most artists this would be a bad thing, but here there’s something epic about these near distorted washes of warmth that elevates his approach. Fritch is a film composer also, having scored multiple award winning features, and there’s no doubt his use of strings on tracks like A Game Within a Game pays heed to the likes of legendary film composers like Jerry Goldsmith – despite being used in a song format. There’s also his gentle wounded wail that he’s developed over recent years, his earnest heartfelt vocals cloaking these semi classical near cinematic cues, and convincing us that they’re actually songs.
There’s an irony in the title. This is his most bloated bombastic and noisiest album in some time. Yet when his music plays I see images, I see film, I see cinema. It’s widescreen, it’s epic, it’s emotional sound design – the space where music meets emotion. Everything about Fritch’s approach is distinctive. His music is melancholic, imbued with a certain sense of sadness – even when we feel hope. Even his mixing sounds like no one else. And all of this is to do with the fact that it’s a work solely created by him – the song writing, the instrumentation, the mixing –there is nothing that you hear that he does not shape on this album.
The highlight is the final piece, Aftermath which melds organ with vocals and sounds like its coming from the next room, with ill defined emotion and near distorted washes of ambience before the melodics take over and rescue us from the potential of a world of noise. It’s beautiful, epic, heartfelt, unconventional, and it packs a punch – much like this album as a whole.