Afurnishedsoul released more than two years ago a self-produced and self-released DIY indie postrock EP that pleased not only because former Carefree vocalist Jeff did all the music, but also because the fragmentary vision hasn't lost any of its charm up to this day. Not much seemed to happen afterwards, with Jeff spending most of the time abroad studying, until a couple of days ago he emailed me about his new idea: release all afurnishedsoul demo recordings for free over the Internet by creating a new website.

The material is gathered onto three separate CDs and promises to become the longest review on this site. A regular, more professionally recorded CD-EP (with the help of other musicians) should be released later this year and will be available for purchase.

AFURNISHEDSOUL - Collapse Of The Ivory Towers

afurnishedsoul - Collapse Of The Ivory Towers

23 songs
76:55 minutes
***** ****
(DIY)

Bandpage

The first of the three CDs is also the longest, starting with the seven songs from the initial EP. Ode To A Tree Nymph and Hope's An Open Window are two beautiful melancholic pieces that two years after their inception have gained power, showing that quiet music can be very moving. Nut tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom (with a video clip on the Bored Like Roboticat CD) shows AFS from a more rocking side, reminding slightly of instrumental Sonic Youth. Before continuing with the as yet unreleased material, we are treated with a track from Turtle, with collaborations from AFS. It's nice mellow instrumental postrock, you wouldn't know it's a different band in the concept of this CD. The remaining fifteen songs could more or less have been on the first EP, except that some of these demos are veering into a slightly different direction. Especially the singer-songwriter pieces Cultural Exchange Program and the long Temps des Cerises (which both will be featured in new versions on the forthcoming EP) have tremendous momentum, even though they are basically only acoustic guitar and vocal pieces. It's hard to believe that this involving vocalist is the self-conscious guy from the early Carefree songs... although we should not forget that Carefree are as yet the only local band who scored a maximum rating in the German Ox fanzine, back when they released their fantastic but sadly overlooked EP. Anyway, these two vocal tracks make my mouth water already for AFS's future releases.

Of course not everything has the same level. What do you expect from 77 minutes of mostly demo recordings? There are some weird techno pieces that have been recorded with Jeff's alter ego DJ Softcore in his mind. Bridge is remix of a Torpid song, and Weird Techno Song is just that. One more highlight is the sprawling Bach/Radio/Sunset, the only track seeing AFS transgressing the seven minute line.

As a work in progress or retrospective, Collapse Of The Ivory Towers is the ideal place to start AFS. The first seven songs were a separate release in the past, and the remaining tracks (two thirds of the running time) show some glimpses of what AFS was in the past and will become in the future. A very interesting kind of compilation.

AFURNISHEDSOUL - Bored Like Roboticat

afurnishedsoul - Bored Like Roboticat

17 songs
47:04 minutes
***** **
(DIY)

Bandpage

This second compilation collects songs from two different periods, funnily enough from AFS's absolute beginnings and also newer demo and jam material. This makes of course for very uneven listening, making it a good idea never to listen to this CD in one piece.

The first seven tracks are the new(er) demo recordings that sound like work in progress, building on mostly gentle electric guitars and backed by rather primeval drum beats. The opener Ladies And Gentlemen, The State Of The Nation (featured in a different version on Collapse Of The Ivory Towers) with Dubya on vocals is one of the more finished songs. The six minute Fire Flies has a nice post rock ambience, not too different from what I have heard in the past from Godspeed You Black Emperor side projects. The next four songs are much shorter (between one and two and a half minutes) and show AFS from his more rocking side... I prefer his mellower stuff though, because he always manages to convey a sense of true melancholy, as also on the last demo song The Devil In Moscow Had His Heart Broken In Luxembourg (weird title).

Before the second part starts, we are treated with yet another collaboration, this time with Raf from local grind gods DeadBoyDreaming. But don't worry, it still sounds like AFS: sad drum loops and clean acoustic guitars as the backdrop for a moody ballad that later on adds distorted guitars and lends an unusual hardrock sound to the song. Unusual for AFS, that is.

The remaining songs are by AFS's alter ego DJ Softcore which is now released, for simplicity's sake, under the name AFS also. Most of these tracks had the concept of running for one minute and forty-eight seconds. Wow! While Violence (with Albert Einstein vocals) and the reverse ambient soundscape Demain, dès l'aube are interesting enough in their own rights, the six following tracklets all use the same device: recording a regular guitar-and-vocals song and speeding up the tape. This works out all right on the quirky Duct Tails, but fails elsewhere, because a joke is only good when told once. The CD ends with a remix of the Carefree song Panther Rodriguez, using vaguely the same effects as on Demain, dès l'aube, but as this is a remake of an actual song, the result becomes something totally different and strangely rewarding.

As this is AFS's shortest CD, you get some CD-ROM bonus content, among other a static version of their old website, MP3 files of the first demo and the video clip for Nut tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom. It's a funny work without being really too artistic.

From an encyclopaedic perspective, this certainly is again very interesting, but not as listenable as the Collapse Of The Ivory Towers album. Three very good songs, some nice work in progress, a couple of good "DJ" stuff and some annoying but short pieces make for generous seven points.

AFURNISHEDSOUL - The Broken Record

afurnishedsoul - The Broken Record

10 songs
50:24 minutes
***** ***
(DIY)

Bandpage

And finally the last compilation... It takes a lot of time to get into so much music, and although normally I am quite lazy about writing reviews, I decided this time to spend three days with the three albums, and you wouldn't believe it, but somehow I am sorry that it is going to an end now, although the light at the end of the tunnel promises a new regular AFS EP very soon.

Jeff warned me about the quality of The Broken Record, telling me it was full of playing mistakes. That may well be the case, but in some ways this CD is easiest to listen to in one piece. First of all, unlike the previous ones, it contains only recordings from a precise moment in time. These are all demo recordings that Jeff did mostly by himself while Carefree were still a year ahead of their biggest time. Also there is only voice accompanied by acoustic guitar this time (except on the hidden bonus track). With drums (by then Carefree drummer Max, now famous with local power metal heroes Ophidian) on only one track (Renard), we are treated with a very intimate record(ing) that manages to stay away from the clichés of singer-wongwriter. These songs are unfinished (this becoming something of a leitmotif with AFS), but they are by no means improvised. Jeff has a very psychedelic take on his guitar, sometimes meandering off into strange territories, just to get back with his laidback voice. Actually Jeff was never one of the technically skilled vocalists, but then legends like Lou Reed, Mark E. Smith and David Bowie are not known either for a high vocal range. What Jeff does is put sincere feeling into his voice, never overdoing it, always staying more or less on the same notes and still carrying a high emotional impact.

Many people from punk bands to acoustic stuff these days, but most of them just sound like a fiercer brand of singer-songwriters. AFS 2001 (back then called "nameless and untitled") is more introspective, with a certain psychedelic edge, nearly enabling us to see Jeff sitting on his unmade bed playing his guitar with an air of melancholia. It is no surprise therefore that the collaborative song with drums is the weakest track on this compilation, with the rhythm somehow invading the intimate atmosphere of these recordings.

The recordings are all very lo-fi, but still sound good as the tape recorder (or mini disc, who knows how far progress was back then) only had to deal with one not too loud instrument and voice.

And that was it already. I don't know how many people did it, reading through to the end, but if you did, you may well be the type of person who now wants to visit immediately AFS's new homepage and download all that material. With the generous and aesthetically compelling artwork, you are even nearly forced to burn them on audio CDs.

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