CFCF has produced an album that appears to come from a deeply personal place. For electronic music to sound this immersed in abstract personal feelings without ever becoming over-emotive or schmaltzy is an accomplishment in itself. For what initially appears to be a conceptual thread tightly holding the pieces together without trying too hard to make its intentions fully known is another. The music feels as if it is gradually revealing something about its author track by track, but still retaining a privacy, a reflection of the enigmatic musician who made it. The album sometimes plays like the soundtrack to a lost Aronofsky film, and at other times it belies its modern aesthetic with twists into Radiophonic territory, which becomes the most charming part of a section such as ‘Exercise 3 (Buildings)’, with its seemingly simple piano arpeggios developing into a moving piece that is far greater than the sum of its parts (at the start I was initially thinking “Sweeney Todd!?”).
Settling into the album and its trance inducing short, flowing, instrumental pieces, I found myself jarred by the surprise introduction of 80s pop vocals and garage beats in ‘Exercise 5 (September)’. That’s not to say it doesn’t retain the densely produced, dream-like aesthetic of the other tracks. But it is a seemingly odd choice to have an album that flows so beautifully otherwise interrupted with a full on song. Perhaps this is intentional, as a way of preventing the listener from settling into something that may become too familiar too soon, where the previous patterns of shifting piano chords and soft-synths have been hovering over somewhat similar territory. These are ‘Exercises’ after all. So are we to assume these are not complete works? Fragments of ideas loosely held together? I would see them as just the opposite, the album is a fully realised whole that perhaps takes a bizarre interlude as detour. They are exercises in as much as the titles suggest (Entry, School, Loss), part of life’s training, and learning more about one’s self as time passes.