Issue #43: The View From This Tower by Faraquet

November 21, 2016

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The View From This Tower by Faraquet
Released On November 14, 2000
Released By Dischord Records

This Week’s Selection Chosen By PJ Sykes

April 6th, 2001, I traveled to Harrisonburg, VA for the annual MACRoCk music festival. Friday night, I knew the names of a few of the bands, but trusted that the rest of the Dischord/Lovitt based showcase would be up my alley.

Burning Airlines
Engine Down
Q And Not U
Ben Davis
Fin Fang Foom
Blueline Medic
The Postage Era
A Rocket Sent To You
J Rawls

The first band to turn my ear that night was Fin Fang Foom. A hybrid of post-hardcore and instrumental post-rock, they were like a punk rock Mogwai led by Geddy Lee. I picked up their split 10″ and have been going to see them ever since.

The second band that blew me away was the new Dischord band Q And Not U. Just six months after the release of No Kill No Beep Beep, I was startled when almost everyone in the room clapped along to the end of “Line In The Sand.” At the time, it felt like Fugazi was poised to pass the torch to these guys.

Smashed between Q And Not U and the popular Engine Down was Faraquet. With no frills they set up a simple power trio arrangement of drums, bass, and guitar, and then absolutely destroyed the stage with just five songs. I became a fan instantly.

Faraquet might have started off as a side project for Devin Ocampo and Jeff Boswell, who were both in Smart Went Crazy, but despite the short existence, the band still enjoys a cult following among math rock enthusiasts and Dischord/DC music fans. Devin’s unique and intense guitar style has inspired many people to share guitar covers on YouTube. Drummers have used Faraquet covers to show off their skills. Even School of Rock has used the band’s challenging compositions as a learning tool.

I find myself coming back to this record every so often and when I do, I’m always pleased to find that the songs and production hold up with age, and that each of the carefully planned notes still pierce my ears in just the right way. I still hum the catchy guitar lines over fifteen years later as if they’re new earwroms. It’s one of my favorite, and definitely one of the most underrated, records in the storied Dischord catalog.

While there’s no direct follow up record, both Devin and Chad went on to play in the band Medications which picks up pretty much where Faraquet left off. They were also both members of Beauty Pill (which itself a carryover band from Smart Went Crazy) an amazing band which sounds nothing like Faraquet. If you really dig The View From This Tower, you should keep an eye out for the debut album by the EFFECTS (Devin’s current band), coming out sometime in 2017.

PJ Sykes (@pjsykes)
Gutsy Punk Renaissance Man

Photos and setlist from Faraquet at MACRoCk 2001.

I too saw Faraquet at MACRoCk in 2001, almost five years before I met PJ. All the short sets (Q And Not U, Ben Davis, Engine Down) in the dark venue blurred together to create this amazing evening full of clapping, cheap beer, togetherness and growing anger at the asshole we had just elected president. While I listened to a fair amount of jazz and jazz-influenced punk at the time, Faraquet was different. Incredibly talented musicians, they were able to combine jazz, the DC punk sound, and math rock into something exciting and electric, just like that evening spent in Harrisonburg. “Song For Friends To Me” is the best song that Steve Albini wished he’d written. The simple pissed off lyrics — “Beat your head against you know we made you / You’ll fall again, you’re fucked” – are sung over a heavy bass line and what always sounded like typewriters to me. And that trumpet. That glorious trumpet adds emphasis to the frustration of not being able to succeed. Besides the trumpet (and cello!), Faraquet’s sense of melody sets them apart from other bands of the era. Sometimes Devin Ocampo sings in a monotone because that’s what the song calls for (“Sea Song“) but in others, he allows his voice to carry a melody. I especially love the tiny bit of falsetto in the title track. The songs are also incredibly memorable, even “The Missing Piece,” which I will go on record as saying it is one of my favorite instrumental songs of all time. The View From This Tower is even better than I remembered; in fact, because OYR is off next week, I’m going to spend some time listening to some of my other forgotten records to see if they have held up as well as this one. I suspect Faraquet will come up on top.

Melissa Koch (@bunnycaper)
Mediocre Runner, Aspiring Celebrity DJ

Have you ever seen Kid Capri DJ? In case you haven’t, Kid Capri is one of the most accomplished, world-renowned hip hop DJ’s of all time. He is universally acknowledged as one of the most thoroughly entertaining party rockers on the planet. There’s two reason for this: 1) his boisterous command of the microphone, and 2) his relentless pace and/or propensity to change pace at a moment’s notice. He keeps the entire venue on their toes from start to finish by changing songs every few seconds, rarely letting so much as a complete verse play. It’s jarring. It’s dynamic. It’s fun! I feel the same way about Faraquet’s The View From This Tower. This is a fantastic road trip record. I say that because there is no possible way to fall asleep while it’s playing. Just when you’re settled into a groove, Faraquet switch into a time signature from Pluto, and reset the entire composition on its head. This record commands your attention all the way through. I really love their flare for rhythm and timing — another hallmark of any great DJ as well. The View is a master class for any drummers looking to take their game to the next level — hardly any straight 4/4 here. Even though it’s just under forty minutes long, The View is so action packed that I felt exhausted (in a good way) after the last song. It’s like a good workout, which is exactly what I need before next Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (and, I guess, have a good Thursday to everyone outside of the US?)!

Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator

My wife and I are, as I type this on Sunday night, finally all caught up on Westworld. We were late to the party, but there’s something incredibly fitting about this being the week we caught up and this being the week Off Your Radar is featuring Faraquet. Westworld and The View From This Tower illustrate how inseparable emotion and intellect are, be that in the musical realm or an Anthony Hopkins-hewn android theme park nightmare. From the opening moments of View, it’s clear that math and intensity are woven together; just look at the first track’s title — “Cut Self Not.” But it’s not just the lyrics — the music itself is saturated with emotion, from the passion with which it’s delivered to the abundance of quick, unexpected variations that disrupt patterns and mimic the idiosyncrasies that make us human. Those variations may be “Carefully Planned,” but you can hear resoundingly the sweat and concentration that were required to faithfully record such detailed ideas. And “The Missing Piece,” in all of its repetitious glory, feels positively tender to me. Like comforting words issued sweetly and steadily. I know I have robots on the brain, but I can’t help thinking that if there were a musical Turing test, View would pass with flying colors.

Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds

The simple pleasures in life can be provided by a Dischord Records release. This has been the case for me for the majority of my adult music listening life. Farquet’s solo full-length release is another example for me. The way they parallel math rock and hardcore has always fascinated me and continues to as I wrap my head around The View From This Tower. “Sea Song” relies on its unpredictability with every musical twist and turn the song veers towards. Many fans might be quick to point out “The Missing Piece” as their immediate favorite. While it’s definitely incredible, there are so many moments to pinpoint. “The Fourth Introduction” spazzes out of control from the get-go. “Conceptual Separation Of Self” resists the urge to go big until it’s reached the midway point of the song. Listening back to this record, it’s crazy to see how well it has matured and how much it resonates with the music I hear these days. Put this record next to Richmond bands Night Idea or Dumb Waiter and I’d be inclined to see many similarities become immediately apparent. The late nineties and the early twenty-first century of DC bands will always hold a dear place in my heart and Faraquet are no exception to that sentiment.

Shannon Cleary (@thatssocleary)
Musical Explorer Of All Angles

A true representation of DC punk’s ingenuity and impact.

I saw Faraquet once. They were opening for Jets To Brazil at The Black Cat in DC (the old one, where the stage was downstairs). They had a cool vibe, but weren’t the main attraction on the bill and I didn’t figure out who they were til later, so I sadly remember very little about their set. When I next heard their name, it was in the context that they were one of two bands (the other being Beauty Pill) that had grown out of the dissolution of Smart Went Crazy, a ’90s era Dischord Records band whose second album, Con Art, I had really liked. My favorite aspect of Smart Went Crazy had been the eloquent lyrics and memorable vocals of frontman Chad Clark, and he wasn’t in Faraquet, so I never bothered to check out their studio stuff until now. I probably wasted a lot of time. Granted, this album is not as lyrically memorable or full of arresting choruses as Con Art. However, it makes up for those aspects with its hypnotically tangled song structures and wire-tight postpunk guitars. Stuff like this was all over Dischord in this era — I hear the sounds of Hoover, Bluetip, and Jawbox in the songs on The View From This Tower. However, I also hear some really distinctive aspects that keep Faraquet from becoming redundant for anyone owning the aforementioned bands’ records. From the whipsawing dropped beats and shifting time signatures of opener “Cut Self Not” to the understated yet impossible-to-ignore melodic hooks of mid-album standout “Study In Complacency,” The View From This Tower will keep listeners engaged throughout — especially once you start hearing the patterns within the complexity, and can hear beyond the immediate. It definitely will grow on you with repeated listens — unless you’re already a math-rock fan, in which case you should love it immediately.

Drew Necci (@buzzorhowl)
Insightful Scholar Of The Underground

Standing in our kitchen, chopping toasted pecans with hands stained from cranberries, I nearly dropped my knife as my partner Eric turned the corner, grinning. “You’re gonna love this week’s album, dude — and I actually knew this one before you,” he smiled. In my weeks with Off Your Radar, there have been a few times when I happily revisited an album from my past, writing an amalgamation of my younger and current perspectives on life and music. Eric is always there beside me, listening to a 20-second loop over and over as I try to pin down a reference, patient as I run off, mid-sentence, because the thread came to me, I know what I’m going to say, and I have to go say it right now. He reads every word I write before anyone else does, and this week, as we drove around the city picking up green beans and onions for a Thanksgiving party, books and tapes from Goodwill to slip into Christmas stockings, he told me about Devin Ocampo, guitarist for Faraquet. Years ago, as Eric recorded an album with Langley Holland, a band formed with Richmond’s own Clair Morgan, Ocampo laughed at Eric’s correction of a bass tone using a jazz bass pick-up, happy that this kid from Virginia Beach didn’t pull out a mess of pedals and fiddley adjustments that would have caused Molter and the others in the control room hours of correcting the tone of the whole album. It’s that connectivity between music, people, and place that becomes evident to me as Eric explains the music. As I note the surprising horn in “Song For Friends To Me,” he tells me about working with Ocampo, hearing him suggest sounds for the band. Listening to the tight chaos of this music, the spirals and offshoots in the guitar that run around the clipped percussion, we pull his memories and understanding of regional sound together with my novice ears, and the album pulses and grows in between. No one creates in a vacuum, and in hitting “play” on this album I was unwittingly picking up a thread in my own creative life, woven into the lives of those I love and those I will never meet, sitting down to record their tracks 16 years ago.

Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite

And lo it came to pass that, in about 1968 King Crimson made rock’n’roll safe for nerds everywhere and music has never been the same since. Employing a virtuosity and technical excellence normally associated with classical or jazz playing, Crimson and the other early prog bands introduced a whole new vocabulary into what was supposed to be music for kids. Like any other genre, how you sort the good prog from the bad depends on your own taste and what you want out of music. One reason I like phase one Crimson (say 68-74) is the retention of a real rock attack and sonic nastiness in a very structured environment. Faraquet inject a lot of that into their songs, too, and even if every demolition is perfectly controlled, the building still fucking falls — and falls hard. Their songs are mostly shorter than many prog (or post-rock, call it what you will) epics, which caused the phrase “power-prog” to arise in my mind. Like a lot of similar bands (or even Crimson) I sometimes wish the vocals had a bit more character but there’s nothing really wrong with the singing, and from what I can glean from the lyrics, the guys in Faraquet are on the right side of things — truth, justice, et cetera. Standout tracks for me are Conceptual Separation Of Self,” with its gorgeous, brooding cello line; “Sea Song,” all distorted guitars intertwining; and the title track, which morphs into a slamming and gloriously cerebral spy thriller soundtrack. Nerdy action heroes like Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne are already choreographing their next fight or chase scene to this number — don’t get left behind.

Jeremy Shatan (@anearful)
Prescient & Appreciative Musical Omnivore

Photo credit Kevin Immamura.

Being a music critic — yes, I call myself one now because I have an ego and it sounds cool at parties — sometimes you listen to records with a fear of trepidation. No critic wants to hate the thing they’re reviewing going in, but our minds will always construct pre-conceived notions of what it sounds like based on the limited information we have, i.e. genre. I felt this way with Faraquet before I dived in. I occasionally dally with the post-hardcore genre, but that’s mostly with only one or two bands, and as a whole, it’s a genre that doesn’t fit with my lifestyle and listening habits. So I had this notion going in I wasn’t going to enjoy The View From This Tower, but alas, my brain is a fool! Faraquet took a bat to my preconceptions and knocked them out with a really cool, clever album. This is a terrifically well-paced and well-produced record. Faraquet have constructed a collection of songs that highlight their talent with a guitar. At times twangy, at times loud, they constantly mix it up with tempo and structure that always seems in flux. It feels effortless in that it feels like a band just riffing and having fun when the reality is these are complex, smart songs. The final track “The Missing Piece” really highlights this and sends the record off on a high note. In fact, calling The View From This Tower post-hardcore is almost entirely incorrect, as much as Wikipedia tries to say to the contrary. Faraquet are a difficult band to pigeon-hole into a genre, but that’s because they defy such rigid concepts. So know this — The View From This Tower is a cool, refreshing record that will make you clamor for more.

James Peart (@choccyr)
Fascinated Binger Of Musical Zeitgeist

My two favorite tracks on this album are “Sea Song” and the title track, “The View From This Tower.” I was trying to figure out what I liked about them and then I realized that it might be the same thing. In this frenetic and unpredictable album, both songs have honest-to-God solos. “Sea Song” has this crazy guitar solo that sounds almost like Jeff Boswell took inspiration from a heart monitor and then just explored where he could go with it. What I especially loved was that the solo was happening regardless of what else was happening in the song (which I suppose is what makes it a solo?). It almost made me laugh because it felt like he was saying, “Ok, you guys do whatever. I’m going to be over here doing this wild solo” Then, in the next track, the title track, Chad Molter gets the opportunity to do some drum soloing. Okay, maybe his performance lands in the territory of extended fills, but it felt like a drum solo. What I love about the title track is that I can tell this is “the drum song”. It has a different texture right from the start and I really appreciate how the song pays off with drumwork that fits within the context of the rest of the album, but really could only happen on this particular song. Both of these solos (as I’ve chosen to call them) give the music a link to the past (as soloing at all has the the tendency to do), which is delicious on such a modern-sounding album.

James Anderson (@unabashedjames)
Devoted Docent Of Musical Concepts

A very fine record indeed. With all the nostalgia for the ’90s being thrown around, it’s a shame that this then emergent movement doesn’t receive more widespread credit. I first encountered Mathrock around 1999 and found this unique music underpinned with the cerebral, but not in anyway nonvisceral. Typically unadorned by effects, I marveled at how groups like Pinback, Karate, and Don Caballero brought a more focused and intricate level of composition into rock. I was unaware of Faraquet then, but this album is a banner example of the genre’s sonic sincerity and texture. Yes, there are ties to punk and post-punk, but I think something bigger underneath that also connect these types of works to the post-rock scene that was blossoming alongside, and that is a conscious (or subconscious) manifestation of the philosophy of Structuralism in the creation of music. And so this becomes more of a springboard or question to look beyond isolating music subjectively and into correlations between modalities and thought. Why does this resonate then and now? I’ll leave you with this quote from Aldo van Eyck from Forum in 1962: “All systems should be familiarized one with the other in such a way that their combined impact and interaction can be appreciated as a single complex system – polyphonal, multirhythmic, kaleidoscopic and yet perpetually and everywhere comprehensible.”

Matt Klimas (@nearcticfauna)
Surveyor Of All Things Fuzz

After a few listens yesterday, I found myself quite enamored with this record, but stuck somewhat on how to talk about it in a critical sense. The best I could get is “Yo, this music good” which might fly on Twitter, but not in this publication that clearly cares not about a character or even word count. Over and over, I wrote opening lines, slammed the backspace key, and cursed myself out for being incoherent and illogical. Eventually, I had enough self-torture, so I decided to push it aside and focus on some busy-work that had piled up. I even put the record on repeat too, hoping that losing myself in something else just might trigger a rational thought about the record. (Spoiler alert: I got nothing.) Somewhere in this marathon work session, I hit repeat again during the song “Cut Self Not” causing it to play a dozen times, give or take, while I pushed through to find a good stopping point for the night. While I was lost in formatting, I still noticed what had happened, but didn’t care to change it because I was in a good work rhythm, and also the guitar on that song is just so damn invigorating. So for what seemed like a half-hour, I listened to one Faraquet song over and over again, a song that’s truly great, but probably not even the best off this record. (I’m quite partial to “Study In Complacency” as well as “The Missing Piece” like everyone else). At some point, I hit stop to grab some water and in that short trip, I found my mind still weaving around those guitar lines, wondering just how they wrote it and wondering just how intricate it truly is. I got back upstairs, sat at the desk, grabbed the nearest guitar, and ventured over to Ultimate Guitar to see if a tab was available. Thankfully, there was, and I quickly looked through the tab and instructions… and then I quickly put my guitar back down. My self-esteem was already at a low for not having any sane thoughts on the record; I didn’t need to embarrass myself on guitar to make things worse. To be fair, it’s not all on my substandard guitar skill — just listen to what the musician who tabbed it had to say. “This song is fucking difficult. That’s about all I can say.” This Barney Gale sounds like my kind of guy. Even though I put my guitar down though, I kept reading through the tab and Barney’s instructions and comments. Even in tablature, Faraquet is hard to pin down with cohesive logic and rational reasoning, making me feel mostly defeated, yet somewhat vindicated too. Without going track by track (which would have taken less time than this story), I have no real overarching thoughts to say about this record that should entice you to listen. I will say, you really can’t go wrong with this record and if one thing isn’t striking you as entertaining or memorable, give it thirty seconds and the band will have switched over to something completely differently that surely will. Maybe that’s all I need to say. Or maybe I should have just stuck with my initial thought. Yo, this music good.

Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart

Off Your Radar Returns December 5th With This Selection:
Down Fell The Doves by Amanda Shires
Chosen By Josh Buck

Off Your Radar Newsletter

Editor: Doug Nunnally

Contributors: James Anderson, Josh Buck, Laura Burroughs, Shannon Cleary, Andrew Cothern, Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford, Matt Green, Davy Jones, Matt Klimas, Melissa Koch, David Munro, Drew Necci, James Peart, Jeremy Shatan, & PJ Sykes

Logo By Matt Klimas


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