Recording information: The Garden Centre, North Yorkshire (08/2013-07/2014).
York, England punk trio Fawn Spots started in 2011 as a duo, bent on the same intention of making as much noise as humanly possible as most punk bands do. In the years between their blustering early days and the 2015 arrival of their debut album From Safer Place, the band went through some serious changes of direction, still making a respectable amount of noise, but injecting their blasts of hardcore fury with the same kind of searching unrest and emotional undercurrents that fueled the fire of early punkers like H?sker D? or Rites of Spring. This is apparent not only in the heavy themes of existential dread and universal emptiness shouted by lead vocalist Jonathan Meager, but also in the way songs erupt in fits of both angry dissonance and tense melody. Both of these conflicting elements show up on almost every song, beginning with explosive album-opener "New Sense." Blasting out of the gates in a storm of feedback, the angular riffs and complex drum patterns that make up the song filter the shadowy angst of Joy Division through the hit-the-ground-running D.I.Y. approach to punk of the early SST catalog. The driving "Black Water," as well as the moody ripper "Natural Vision," both hint at the influence of solitary Northwestern punk heroes the Wipers, and in some ways also take a page from indie punks one generation later like Unwound and Karp. Throughout the album, Fawn Spots walk the line between agony and transcendence on a similar path walked by the pioneers of the emo movement. Meager's vocals sound like a far huskier version of Fugazi/Rites of Spring vocalist Guy Picciotto's breathless proclamations, and the band's insistent blasts never let up for a second, pushing along with the same relentless force as bands like Mission of Burma or Embrace. The songs ultimately blur into one extensive blast of rugged emotion and high energy, dazzling in their urgency and always threatening to crumble out of precise playing into unhinged noise. ~ Fred Thomas