London outfit Folly Group already have two high-quality EPs under their belt. Both 2021’s Awake And Hungry and 2022’s Human And Kind turned plenty of heads in alternative circles with their blend of traditional post-punk, Afrobeat, electronica and trip-hop.
Self-produced by the band, Down There! Is a palpable step up from the four piece. Early single ‘Big Round’ may be fairly straight down the road (by Folly Group’s standard), but it works nicely as the album opener and eases the listener into the world Folly Group are creating.
‘I’ll Do What I Can’ is a great moment early in the record. A big, driving verse and middle eight paired to bombastic drums, the track evokes Heavy Heavy era Young Fathers, before the group launches into a huge chorus with shades of Bloc Party‘s Silent Alarm. It’s infectiously catchy, and percussion work from Sean Harper and Kai Akinde-Hummel is off the charts at times: frantic drum fills which squeeze so much into each split second of sonic pause. Superb.
Folly Group shake their post-punk status with ease, and numbers like ‘Bright Night’ are where Folly Group come into their own; angular, avant-guitar parts and off-beat drums coalesce seamlessly, before the nature of the track changes to a repeated chorus. There’s a micro-breakdown which conjures the more experimental side of Fat Dog, before we’re right back to chunky, punky-banger territory. As swaths of their peers have fallen by the wayside in the wake of post-punk’s market saturation, Folly Group have created an album which is full of intrigue and sonic left turns.
There are distinct layers here, and each number is well thought out, and executed with precision. Production values and songwriting are of the highest quality: bands self-producing can often lead to overindulgent efforts, but the 37 minute record is timed to perfection; there’s no fat to be found on Down There! and the music sounds fresh and expertly balanced. This level of assuredness is a testament to the talent present in Folly Group.
Lead single ‘Strange Neighbour’ is a highlight, and the centrepiece of the album. Raucous, off-beat drums drive the track along, and the accompanying math-inspired guitars make this a bone fide art-punk banger. ‘Freeze’ is very much in the same vein, leaning into the more dissonant post-rock stylings, again complemented by exemplary percussion. There is a fantastic winding overarching guitar part towards the end of the cut which is just long enough to get lost in before the track ends abruptly.
‘Pressure Pad’, in it’s more chaotic moments, is reminiscent of the industrial wall of sound style that worked so well for Black Midi’s early efforts, as Folly Group create a gargantuan soundscape that is just too good, and too huge, to miss.
For all the sonic quality on this record, something should be said for the lyrical content too. The band has no choice but to balance their musical careers with traditional “jobs”, and the anxieties therein bleed into the lyrical content. ‘Freeze’ discusses financial woes, ‘Bright Night’ talks about physical pressures and there is a more general sense of encapsulating the mood of 2024 Britian: disenfranchisement, financial pressure, anxieties and an ever-present sense of doom.
Despite the themes here, Down There! Is a real high water mark for albums in 2024, and Folly Group nail their lines at every turn. The band balance their influences with a deft hand, creating an overall piece which is sure to garner respect from musos, journalists and fans alike.
Photo credit: Matt Ritson