Fiat Lux redux: ‘Twisted Culture’

 The trio’s new album reflects on the ever-changing pathways of love and life, writes Ange Chan.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Fiat Lux, but after a couple of years on hiatus we can look forward to Twisted Culture, an album full of nine brand-new songs to be released on Splid Records on 5 November 2021.

Recorded mainly at Splid Studios, Keighley, Yorkshire, when restrictions allowed, the album has been produced by band member David P. Crickmore, with frontman Steve Wright on vocals and Will Howard (latest band member, who has replaced original band member, the late Ian Nelson) providing the sax and clarinet elements that underpin the Fiat Lux’s trademark sound, further enhanced by David’s keyboards, guitars and bass guitar.

The album was co-written between David and Steve, who said, “One of the key points is that this album began its construction before the first lockdown. Some of the tracks were just halfway to completion. Some hadn’t even been begun. So, it has morphed into what it is through snatched opportunities here and there, as well as more concerted sessions for vocals and new track inspiration when the chances arose!  Some of the vocals were recorded at my home.  Add into that the decommissioning of the Splid Studio for David’s house move, and you can see that the opportunities to work on songs had to be grasped tightly!”

The overall sound of the third album is a slight departure for Fiat Lux, veering away from the feel of their previous albums.  It’s noticeably more synth-driven than they ever were before, although some of the songs still have that classic Fiat Lux bass, which gives them their definitive sound and will provide some comfort to their most stalwart fans.  David sums this up by describing it as ‘distinctively different’.

The album opens with (How Will We Ever) Work This Way, which was released as a single in 2020 and was described as “something to keep the fans going” in between albums.  By complete contrast to that funk-filled song, Basement City Living is a chaotic instrumental cacophony of heavy synths, inter-mingled with a variety of vocals and sounds.  In short, it’s an undiscovered territory in which we’ve never seen Fiat Lux venture to before.

David said of this track, “This started as a small bridging instrumental track based around a Mini Moog sequence. It then took on a life of its own in its evocation of a time when we did live with poor means in the middle of a city where life undulated from being vibrant to scary. Like a lot of these tracks it features a cross-pollination of vintage synths that have been with us since Fiat Lux began, like the Jupiter 8, and more modern variants such as the Korg Volca Sample 2, which puts us in mind of an Roland TR 606 with no limits.”

It Wasn’t Supposed to be Now would make an excellent next single release.  Steve said of the track, “We could have been drawing on the quote attributed to John Lennon that ‘life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.’  The lyric reveals different scenes down the course of a life where that idea may or may not be true, but basically it’s saying get on with it while you can!”  It’s a highly accomplished pop song and a highlight of the album.

Lyrically, many of the songs on the album seem to relate a tumultuous love life with a healthy dose of acrimony and bitterness thrown into the mix, such as on Cul De Sac and the frenzied Tighter with the lyrics “I feel like a vulture at a carcass, when I only came here for fun”.

Of these lyrical preoccupations, vocalist Steve Wright told We Are Cult, “The lyrics (for Cul de Sac) are inspired by, rather than actually about, a real situation. There’s a re-evaluation of an unsuccessful relationship going on. Everyone knows that point at which you’ve got over it a bit, but not completely lost the cushion of bitterness.”

By contrast, we have Hope and Breathe You In, following a different theme and more tender in their delivery.  Hope is evocative of Tuesday from their previous album, with a lengthy, introspective instrumental intro featuring the e-bow guitar which David was taught by Ian’s brother, Bill Nelson.

Fiat Lux supporting China Crisis at the Brudenell Social Club, 6 March 2020. Photo: Ange Chan.

Closing track This is Your Lifetime is a beautiful ballad, a genre Fiat Lux excel in, and my favourite song on the album.  Subtle references to Soft Cell, Human League and Heaven 17 can be related to in places on the album, hailing back to Fiat Lux’s roots in 1980s pop music.  The track features a Bansitar (an instrument similar to the sitar, giving the track a curious new sound element) and was to be the title track until Twisted Culture presented a more suitable title.

When asked about how the album title came about, the band told We Are Cult:

“We settled on the title Twisted Culture for several reasons. The straightforward one was that, as the pandemic had happened during the album’s making, we were all grappling with a virus which was itself a twisted culture – as in seen through a microscope on a Petri dish – the album cover image is a microscopic photograph of the virus tinted by our graphic artist Lee Walsh. We were trying to use it to evoke a psychedelic sleeve similar to the Hypnosis sleeves of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Also, the title takes on other meanings – the era around the pandemic will no doubt be remembered for the many twists and upheavals in our culture which will not leave things the same as they were before. Some of this change will be for good, some not.

“The virus also exposed how our culture can still be twisted for selfish ends by those making the rules for the rest of us. Even before all of this, as we felt more confident after the good reception of Saved Symmetry, we wanted the follow-up to have a consistent theme, and the songs became broadly about our culture and how we’ve lived through it in the past, and how we get through it in the present and the future. Ian Nelson was always good at coming up with slightly barbed titles for our works, such as Hired History and Commercial Breakdown, so we constantly think about what Ian would have approved of when we are looking for album titles and such like.”

On first listening, I was a little confused with this album; the songs seem to jump around in tempo and style, and to me didn’t feel like a cohesive Fiat Lux record.  However, after a few listens the songs begin to grow on you, and it all then begins to make perfect sense.  In response to this train of thought, Steve responded by saying, “It’s varied in typical Fiat Lux style however of our previous work, compare Comfortable Life vs Embers from way back, or Splurge vs The Moment.  It’s true. Fiat Lux have always had a penchant for mixing musical styles up.  He added, “I think it sounds excellent, and is true to what Fiat Lux IS.”

As an album, the audience is being steered in a slightly different direction to the Fiat Lux we already think we know and love, as it reflects on the ever-changing pathways of love and life in new ways.  It will be interesting to hear the album tracks performed live, which always adds a new perspective on songs.  Fiat Lux have two live shows planned for this year*. Check for future live dates and more.

Fiat Lux: ‘Twisted Culture’ is released on Splid Records via Proper on 5 November 2021 on CD, Vinyl and Digital formats: Click here to buy from the official Fiat Lux website.

*Album launch live dates: Workshop Theatre, Halifax — 30 Oct 2021 and Seventh Wave Festival @ Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham — 13 Nov 2021

 Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. A prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and lifelong lover of music, Ange is also We Are Cult’s Social Media Administrator.

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