Album Review: FERN — “Intersubjective”

Solo projects are interesting vehicles for creative and sonic exploration, especially if the main project is known for creating extreme (metal) music. Exploring this so-called “side content” is a treat and something that allows a deeper dive into understanding how various musical influences come together in the mainline band album. In the case of FERN, the solo project of The Ocean’s drummer Paul Seidel, their debut album Intersubjective oscillates between art pop, industrial, and ambient electronica, pulling the already established fans into this intimate and heady atmosphere that offers a huge look under the hood.

I am no stranger to electronica/industrial music as a whole – I tend to gravitate towards the genre whenever metal just isn’t doing it for me – so I expected, going into Intersubjective, that I would find this at least enjoyable. However, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. When first track “Առաջանալ” starts, the duduk used throughout stands out like an exclamation mark. It’s an interesting starting choice – to have this instrument, which is foreign to most people, kick this thing off. Intersubjective is not only a catchy album in that it has hooks, beats, and faraway vocals that adds to its ambiance; it also wants you to feel how it pulses, how “alive” it is within the confines of its running time. For example, when “Simulacrum” starts you can physically feel the sonic shift between the duduk to Seidel’s smooth vocals.

I also can’t help but comment that this feels like taking a page out of Nine Inch Nails’ book. Although there are moments where this reminds me of The Fragile, where parts seem to be lifted from it, it still stands on its own, nonetheless. The Fragile is bleak, and while this album can be as well, Intersubjective doesn’t let itself sink into its nihilism.

As Intersubjective continues and during the more instrumental, ambient parts of the album, the music gains additional texture that makes you want to touch it. Each component – the beat, the backing melody, the various interplays between various instruments, the vocals – all seem to gain their own sentience, almost asking the listener to let themselves go. Whatever expectation or thought I had going into this thing has changed and I can’t help but be enamored with how it switches between cold sentience and intimacy. There is something about an album that asks this much yet is so incredibly compelling. You already trust the mainline band to deliver a great album and a great performance; wouldn’t you also trust the solo, sentient component as well?

All in all, Intersubjective is a superb debut that showcases Seidel’s wide ranging talents. They say that a lot can be found in the details, and it’s obvious that FERN has found its niche through the intricate details that make up this record. From the atmosphere to the vocals to the general ambiance and sentience of the music, I can’t help but be enamored by its many intricacies. It also helps that Intersubjective has longevity, as each spin will always sound different. I look forward to seeing what FERN will do in the future, especially how different this is from everything Pelagic Records has on their roster.

Hera


Intersubjective will be available September 30 on Pelagic Records. For more information on FERN, visit their official website.

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