Fink – Perfect Darkness (Ninja Tune/Border) CD REVIEW

Fink’s original point of interest was his origins as a DJ, hence the idiosyncratic name and the label he still records for, Ninja Tune. Over the course of four albums, Fink (aka Fin Greenall) has morphed into a full-fledged singer-songwriter of the old school. Perfect Darkness bares absolutely no traces of “dance culture”, and is entirely made up of Fink singing his songs, to the accompaniment of mostly acoustic guitar, bass and occasional drums. The drowsy strings that occasionally waft around may, or may not be “real”.
In most ways, this is traditional singer-songwriter fare. Musically, Fink is clearly influenced by Jeff Buckley (like thousands of other singers and writers around the globe). This manifests itself in vocals that keep themselves moored in the lower, more gravelly register, and tunes that simmer and threaten imminent explosion, without actually doing so. There’s a mysterious, impassioned edge around Fink’s performances that lends extra weight to the tunes, and at times a gospel and blues-inflected delivery (at its best on ‘Wheels’) that gives it a nicely grainy feel.
Thankfully, Fink doesn’t go for the confessional stuff that’s the bread and butter of so many singer-songwriters. Sure, they’re intensely personal, but here he explores notions of fame and wealth (on the epic title track), honesty (on the rather explicitly-titled ‘Honesty’) and truth (‘Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us’).
Ultimately, however, the songs are trumped by the sound design. While the material is good, the sonics are exquisite.
While there’s no stylistic link to Fink’s former DJ life on Perfect Darkness, there’s an almost dub-like sense of space around the recording, with minimal instrumentation, and everything recorded up-close. Unlike most conventional productions, the guitars and basses and drums are right up in the mix, giving them genuine gravitas and dynamic. There’s no sign of the usual thin-soup compression, except sometimes on the voice, on occasions where it’s double-tracked.
All of the above helps to make it an enjoyable listen, because each beat of the drum, thrum of guitar or gentle burr of the bass massages your auditory senses.
The production also explores “inauthentic” touches (from a hi-fi perspective, anyway) like extreme stereo separation and subtle but effective sonic illusions that again, perhaps, betray his former life. But it’s that very fact that makes Perfect Darkness worth a listen. GARY STEEL
Music = 3.5
Sound = 4.5

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