Film School: Fission Review
The Bay Area quintet Film School have been working to etch themselves into the post-rock meets 80s electronic genre for nearly a decade, but with Fission, the band’s fourth full length release, they may finally begin to set themselves apart in the otherwise flooded niche. Like their name readily provokes, the members of Film School run their band, well, like a school – meticulously arranging every song into prim and tight little opuses. It’s not that the songs are overly glossed over; it’s just apparent that they avoid slip-ups like they’re waiting for a ruler to come crashing down from the headmistress. But the electronic-meets-rock isn’t all that Film School are good at executing as they use Fission to show they can pull off genre-melding with ease.
The band’s sound, overall, is a mixture of whirling, often times ambient synth hooks place underneath a rhythm and guitar section that is influenced by a more straightforward post-rock sound. Throughout the 12 tracks of Fission, the group doesn’t allow the “rock” part of their sound to overpower the hushed vocals and slow-mowing pace of the surging synths. It’s instead used to propel the driving songs and gives much-needed heft to ones would otherwise be too airy. The band’s lead track, and first single, “Heart Full of Pentagons” is a perfect introduction to the band’s sound – plenty of electronic tricks and a steady, driving beat make this one an enjoyable listen. “Waited” is another standout track that has the male and female pair splitting vocal duties that is a nod to classic indie rock. “Still Might” is one track where heavy synths are lifted front and center while lead singer Jason Ruck freezes his voice in a delicate falsetto. The blissfulness of “Sunny Day” is indebted to indie rock bands like Stars. It’s an easy rocker with a chugging, clean guitar hook that has bassist Lorelei Plotczyk crooning in her hushed voice, “You’re the only thing I know I can be sure of.…And when we’re walking/ There’s not a cloud in the way.” It is certainly the most pop the group gets on the album. Also, it could be noted that Plotczyk’s earthy almost Enya-like voice give some of the tracks a very early 90s nostalgic feel. The Britpop-leaning song “Bones” is probably the most memorable track and was a personal favorite.
Fission, for what it was aiming to be, was a solid record. But the biggest pitfall facing Film School is that I could see many first-time listeners immediately say something like, “Yeah, it’s cool, but I feel like I’ve heard this before.” Although they have created a sound that is very much their own over their decade-long career, there is nothing incredibly enduring in Fission. I thought this was a good record, but it just wasn’t all that arresting. In the end, Fission was a fine veteran LP and with better than a handful of good cuts it’s well worth checking out.
— Matt Linden
Film School: Myspace