Trans-continental releases are few and far between around these parts, so it’s a good thing we have men like Johnny Fox to fly the flag. From Wexford to Sao Paolo and currently on sabbatical from his homespun project The River Fane, Fox is nothing if not prolific. ‘More Or Less’ is his third EP release from South America this year alone and his sixth since ‘EP1’ in 2008, with segments recorded between Dublin and Sao Paolo. The three songs on ‘More Or Less’ appear to stand thematically alongside his previous efforts from this past year, an album dissected into rations.
The Beach Boys influence is all over opener Static, and from the rainfall-like effect of the intro the song builds. High-register multi-layered vocals provide a foundation that more instruments join as the coda comes ever closer, dreamy and wavering, while the ambient background noise crackles and fizzes. A stuttering, tripping drumbeat kicks off All Those Ugly Things, a gem that grows in stature as it progresses through the most subtly unexpected turns and time signature shifts. It blossoms into an irresistible series of fuzzed and bristling vocal harmonies, waves of serotonin lapping over and over one another. Swathed in this beautiful, ever-ascending segment, Fox lays bare his soul “For when my heart was cold/ And when I’m being a creep/ The stories that I sold/ To shape what you believe/ And all the times I stole” A whine of feedback and longing sigh of vocal draws it to a conclusion, a showstopper that the following tune could never hope to live up to.
Both on this final number Laughing Stock and the aforementioned tracks, Fox pulls no punches on himself lyrically on what is something of a confessional EP – “I wish that I could bring myself to cry/ But I don’t have nothing worth anything to these eyes”. Discordant rumbles and crashes intrude into the folky picked guitar, adding a drop of chaos to the pathos. With plans to revive The River Fane in 2013 who knows what’s in store for Fox’s solo endeavours – based on this EP which gently soars in places and the two that precede it, a Long Player is just what his efforts over the past year deserve.