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27th February 2024

Album review: The Foyer Project – In: Static

Dark, dramatic, devastating: the experimental, UoM-student-produced album has been remixed and reissued alongside a selection of previously-unreleased tracks
Album review: The Foyer Project – In: Static
The Foyer Project, ‘In: Static’ Official Album Art

The Foyer Project‘s debut album, In: Static, is arguably one of the most innovative LPs to come out of Manchester in recent years. Though largely composed and produced by postgraduate students Kuba Williams and Markos Vafeas, it features a wide array of collaborators, all of whom are current or former University of Manchester students. Since its original release in August 2022, In: Static has been given a fresh coat of paint and was re-released this month alongside a bonus EP of unreleased material.

Incorporating elements of experimental hip-hop, death metal, post-punk, jazz, and contemporary classical music, In: Static is certainly eclectic. Albums like this are always in danger of feeling disjointed, but where In: Static is varied in style it is consistent in quality; from its choral opening to its terrifying conclusion, TFP’s debut is a compelling drama, one that explores themes of detachment and alienation against the noise of everyday life.

The album is a tale of two halves: the first gloomy and mysterious; the second harsh and unrelenting. Opener ‘Second Wind’ encapsulates the former mood with wistful lyrics and gorgeous vocal harmonies delivered by Benedict Parker, the song seamlessly alternating between complex time signatures to build a sense of forward momentum.

Chilled-out instrumental ‘Maps’ provides a pause for breath before the epic ‘Static’ begins. The (almost-)title track is the closest In: Static comes to producing a hit single, but it’s hardly a linear pop song. Beginning with creaky string harmonics and featuring winding melodic lines from Martha Debenham, it bursts into life in its second half with dazzling guitar pyrotechnics courtesy of Vafeas.

The Chopinesque piano interlude ‘Islands’ follows, clearing the way for the unsettling ‘Tap in Tap out’. Vafeas’ evocative spoken-word poetry (again delivered by Debenham) hovers above a sea of muffled voices, which combine with interjections of scratched piano strings to conjure an atmosphere that is utterly chilling.

Then, like a tonne of bricks, ‘Disillusionment’ smacks the listener in the face with its brutal guitar riffs and demented death growls. If truth be told, the juxtaposition here is perhaps a little too jarring, but it does set the tone for the intense run of songs that follows: ‘Astray’ is black midi-esque, with Williams assuming the voice of God to condemn a defenseless interlocutor; on ‘Unbound’, Ocean Man (AKA Rob Hughes) raps over a frightening industrial beat; bonus track ‘Stains’ is a Frankenstein’s monster of all the musical ideas explored so far, where Hughes’ murderous storytelling occasionally gets interrupted by jazzy vocal harmonies.

It’s only 36 minutes long yet has a symphonic sense of scale. The production is sublime, and the remix treatment gives the softer moments more room to breathe, while the likes of ‘Astray’ and ‘Disillusionment’ sound even more fearsome.

Further intrigue is to be found in the bonus disc, which largely consists of unused instrumentals from the In: Static sessions. The one exception is ‘gamma sclera’, a maniacal rage against the religious institutions previously tackled by ‘Astray’, ‘Unbound’, and ‘Disillusionment’. With Ocean Man once again taking the reins, its frantic instrumental recalls the terror of In: Static‘s second half, while Latin rhythms and an inspired sampling of Radiohead‘s ‘Pyramid Song’ give this song a surprising ending.

‘reaction’ and ‘dt bb’ are rockers in the vein of ‘Disillusionment’, while two groovy trip-hop tracks, ‘poltergeist’ and ‘nut’ (which is based on the main theme of Chopin’s Nocturne in F-minor), bring some hitherto-unheard levity to the project. Most curious, however, are the percussive string quartet ‘ratio’, and the entrancing, dishwasher-sampling ‘dishwasher drip’, both solo compositions by Williams and Vafeas respectively. While their omission from the main album is understandable given their drastic difference in style, the unfiltered insight they provide into the two composers’ experimental instincts is fascinating.

The release of these demos effectively closes the book on In: Static, but not on the Foyer Project itself. “I am emancipated, I am unbound / I am unleashed, I am unleashed!” cries Ocean Man on ‘Unbound’; the shackles are off, and the voices from the static only seem to grow louder…

Jake Rowley

Jake Rowley

Jake is a postgraduate student and Mancunion sub-editor, currently studying for a masters in musicology (MusM) at the University of Manchester. His music interests are varied, but he particularly loves alternative rock and Britpop, and is a big fan of Radiohead, The Cure, Sonic Youth and The Beatles.Jake is also a moderator on the lyrics website Genius under the alias ‘Irrelevant Cabbage’.

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