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May 3, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Red Steers—The Fever Fold

Red Steers is Wellingtonian Daniel Johnston (no, not that Daniel Johnston) who is signed to the local A Low Hum record label, whose roster includes Disasteradio and Signer. The Fever Fold is his second digital EP. I was a little worried by the promotional shot on the website: a ‘scene’-looking dude posing with a cocktail glass filled with a dark red liquid. My first reaction was scepticism that it would be all style and lacking in creative content. I was pleasantly relieved after a few spins, though, to find that it was actually very good indeed.

The combination of a rumbling low end, relentless and pulverising drumming along with the choral-like layers of manipulated voice he uses is reminiscent of These New Puritans or even newer acts like Active Child. It’s almost like a choral, blissed-out version of dubstep. I read in an interview that he was inspired by Kanye’s 808’s and Heartbreak, with its Taiko drums and auto tune: if only that album had turned out sounding more like this. The retro beats on ‘Night Hawkes’ coupled with the alien voices is instantly reminiscent of The Knife. At times though, particularly on opener ‘Dec’, the dark dissonances he is aiming for fall slightly flat, sounding more clumsy than experimental and musical (and the Rugrats theme sound of the keyboard doesn’t help).

The Fever Fold ends on its most beautiful moment, ‘Home’. The harmonic progression of autotuned voices builds and spirals upwards. It has a hymnal quality, like the prayer of disembodied electronic voices. There are middle-eastern inflections to the melody as Johnston sings half-discernibly about youth and escaping back to the safety and comfort of the title. It reminds me more than a little of Bon Iver’s dabble with auto-tune on ‘Woods’, which is a good thing.

Red Steers are an act who would benefit hugely from a bigger budget in order fill out their sound. While the production skill on this EP is impressive, I can’t help but wonder how massive these songs could sound with the access to a fully equipped studio and a real choir. He could gain more of a cavernous sound and organic feel to the music. Someone give this dude some funds!

All in all, this second EP from this local act reveals a considerable talent. The Fever Fold is the sound of an artist acknowledging his influences, while messing around figuring out his own sound and voice. I have no doubt that Johnston has much more to give and I look forward to seeing that potential fulfilled. Don’t judge an artist by their press photo.

The Fever Fold
is available for free download from


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Comments (6)

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  1. Hank Scorpio says:

    the best reviewer

  2. Eternal says:

    The. Man.

  3. smackdown says:

    seriously where has this guy been

  4. A says:

    really good review

  5. matthew says:

    dicksuckers union

  6. Your Name says:

    “a ‘scene’-looking dude”…lol. i always judge bands by their press photo and if dey wearing skinny jeans and some sort of t shirt or something i wont go near it no sir.

    i like matthews comment

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