Album Review – III by Foliage (2018) (Z Tapes)

At the age of 20 I was at University. I was a tad immature. My primary concerns in life revolved around finding enough money to indulge my passions for beer, football, music and the search for ‘loves’ with whatever young female was blind enough or suffering from alcohol induced sub-par intellectual prowess to temporarily find me attractive. 
Things have changed a bit over the last 25 years+. An emigration overseas, the strange appropriation of a beautiful wife who somehow found me more than temporarily attractive even when sober, 19 kids (ok just 3, but it sometimes feel that I have one hiding behind every domestic crevice) and a job that in middle class world is considered ‘good’ (despite the 29 hours days that being paid for ‘good’ often entails) means I have been forced to grow up.

In comparison at the age of 20, Manuel Joseph Walker (aka Foliage) appears to have brushed aside the humble beginnings he was faced with in his home town of San Bernardino, CA and has already attracted the patronage of three currently highly fashionable labels (especially among cassette lovers like me) in Human Sounds Records who released his debut 2015 Truths album (other bands Travis Bretzer, Vacations and one of my favourites Lunar Eskimo), Sprit Goth Records who released his sophomore 2017 Silence album (other bands on the label include the likes of Castlebeat, High Sunn and Terry vs Tori) and now the truly brilliant cassette label pioneers of Z-Tapes (same fella who formed United Cassettes) has picked him up for this release…Not content with all of that this 20 year-old also counts 42k spotify monthly listeners as his followers and appears to be in constant demand from a live perspective.

So what has he got that I did not have at 20? Possibly the answer is drive, direction and essential talent. For Foliage play all instruments, twiddles all knobs and engineers the whole sound from the comfort of his bedroom. This album is likely to see the benefits of this dedication and talent reach new heights as there appears to be a new found maturity in his work that may have been slightly missing in the other releases meaning the release definitively crosses the line from good to excellent.

Previously there may have been a tendency to over-produce certain tracks and to try and be too ‘innovative’. Of course as a youngster he could be forgiven for adding extra bleeps and bloops to the brilliant foundation of his core jangle-gaze sound. On III he reduces all that may have been considered superfluous, reduces the synth element markedly and lowers the echoed vocals resulting in the jangle element and indeed the brilliant musicianship that was often buried beneath production tricks to breathe with lungs full of the countryside oxygen depicted on his album art. 
As such tracks such as the opener It’s Time (see above, with its inflections of the Stone Roses distant vocal style), League, Value (see below) the closing Let’s go Home and the true jangling stand-out of I’ll Miss You  provide moments of genuine beautiful intensity that would sit alongside the quieter moments of the Horsebeach or Real Estate sound. With these tracks now dominating, Foliage receives more aural grace to indulge in his passions for innovation and as such the odd bleep,bloop,loop and sound clips still appear, but as he has moved through his albums this has become increasing subtle rather than pervasive and in any case the right has now been earned to experiment.

I have been following Foliage since his debut …its definitely paid off in this wonderful release.

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