FWY!: San Clemente Review
There are certain people who seem to, either by their words or actions, give you an undeniable impression that they are intense. It could be that eagle tattoo screaming up their neck, their impressive facial piercing hardware or their forearms that are the size of your waist. There is a musical equivalent to this as well, generally structured around some sort of chugging power chords in dropped D tuning by guys with mohawks. There is a second kind of intense, which is a more subtle and often a more profound version. This is the person you bump into and, without any outwardly reason, you get the impression that you just shouldn’t go there. That sort of unsettling, below the surface intensity is the kind that permeates the new Moon Glyph release San Clemente from FWY!.
There are some easy reference points on the tape, which rests on an ambient synth foundation, but the biggest thing that jumped out to me is the understated nature of the grooves. The sound feels almost like noir version of new wave stripped of any grandiose tendencies. Even during “Marina Del Ray 6PM,” is a wistful jaunt that seems to bring to life the colorful waves on the cover of the tape, there is a slightly unnerving. “Orange FWY” is a darker, more haunted version of the celestial sound Edmund Xavier makes, while “Corona Del Mar” ups the bpm slightly, but not enough to lift the haze. “Subdivision” sounds like electronic waves crashing on the beach and the title track, which opens the tape, is a dark rumbling track that stretches out over 15 paranoia drenched minutes.
While there are only a certain number of ways to present ambient synth music, there is something about San Clemente that made it stand out from the pack for me. That bubbling intensity that simmers beneath the surface throughout San Clemente weaves itself into your DNA as you listen to the album, creating something that feels much bigger than just the notes from the synth. There are moments when the record is so methodical that it borders on detached (which is think is intentional), but ultimately it works well and the ice cold stare is interpreted, at least to me, as an dark and impenetrable journey into the mind of Mr. Xavier. While it doesn’t cram its heaviness down your throat, San Clemente is a great exercise in power via muted intensity and really stands out as one of the stronger “out there” records I have heard this year.