Negative Gain Productions
The lasting impact of Mr.Kitty’s four album cycle that started with 2011’s D E Δ T H and ended with last year’s excellent Time is hard to measure; Forrest Avery Carney’s prolific release schedule has usually meant that by the time you’ve started to really process his last release, there’s another one there demanding your attention and deep emotional investment. His latest Fragments plays off the dizzying emotional highs and yearning lows of the last four years without necessarily being of them, more than anything it feels like the product of an artist who has learned from the experiences that have shaped his work thus far and is approaching creation with a more confident stance.
The change is subtle, but especially perceptible in the album’s first few songs. Where Carney’s synthwave by way of electropop has often relied on shouted processed vocals to express anguish or anger, on the chorus of opener “Hell” it comes across as defiance, daring anyone to mistake his emotional delivery on the verse for weakness or vulnerability. On “Entwine” and “Shanghai” he comes across as a calm and supportive presence, extending himself outward to the listener, as sanguine as he’s ever sounded. Even in the album’s fraught moments like “I Lost You” Kitty makes a point of not being subsumed by heartache, able to hold onto himself through a dark and turbulent hour that might have previously swept him away. Carney is still a stirring and affecting vocalist, the difference lies in exactly how he presents his feelings to us, and what that says about his journey as a performer and songwriter who has never shied away from the explicitly personal.
The actual mode of the music is largely unchanged on Fragments, which is to say that Mr.Kitty is still making saavy synth bangers. If anything it feels like an effort has been made to strip the songs down to their boldest elements and then present them in as dramatic and widescreen a fashion as possible. Highlights like the triumphant “Flowers For Boys” take the template Kitty has been developing for years and juices it for effect, the emotive arpeggios and pads designed to have as much force as the kicks and snares that carry them. It’s an effect that works especially well on “Cycle of Violence”, the gravitas of the subject matter is perfectly matched to a steady and appropriately earnest arrangement of synths and drums, serious as anything in the Mr.Kitty catalogue. Even the cathartic closing track “Spirit of the Forest” feels tuned for impact, it’s weight belying the digitally processed falsetto vocals that flit in around its upper reaches.
The best and most rewarding thing about Fragments is in exactly how it relates to the music that preceded it. Functioning as a victory lap for an amazing string of records and as a product of their amassed experience, its sound is wholly different for devotees of Mr.Kitty than for first time listeners. You could call this a brave new era for Forrest Avery Carney, but in truth it’s just another step in the same journey we’ve already been taking with him, and as before the feeling is genuine and elating. Recommended.