For the past half-decade or so, Fog has solely been the project of Andrew Broder, a Minneapolis native with a penchant for lo-fi cut and paste pop and bizarre ambient excursions, all painted brightly in hues of tape hiss and static. Truthfully, it was quite disorienting; it’s hard not to listen to an album like Ether Teeth and either think that something’s missing, or a few songs got tracked onto the wrong album. In his own strange way, though, Broder has made some strikingly beautiful and serene work. With the release of Fog’s new album Ditherer, it appears that this is all a thing of the past.
Fog, once a one-man operation, has expanded to a three-piece rock band. No longer do they layer loops of acoustic guitar and nebulous ambient static. Like I said, they’re a rock band. They’re actually a really good rock band, having made an impressive transition from one sound to one seemingly unrelated, in spite of Broder being at the core of each. With additional performances from Andrew Bird, Low’s Alan Sparhawk & Mimi Parker, The Microphones/Mt. Eerie’s Phil Elverum and Martin Dosh, Ditherer is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable, aside from just plain surprising, rock albums in 2007.
The new Fog introduces itself powerfully and bombastically with opener “We Will Have Vanished,” which explodes with suspenseful, distorted riffs and drones, and mercilessly pounding drums. Don’t be fooled—they haven’t completely gone Sabbath. If there is a link that ties the Fog of 10th Avenue Freakout to that of Ditherer, it’s a quirky surrealism, one that’s still going strong, just manifested in a different form. Check the dissonant punk-pop of “Inflatable Ape pt. 3,” which sounds far more like The Dismemberment Plan than Múm or Books. It’s oddly catchy, and melodically stunning, yet disturbing, particularly when Broder sings “I am smothered in glistening chicken fat/ on my mother’s bedspread.” Yikes.
On “I Have Been Wronged,” the band opts for a bouncy pop song turned prog odyssey with spindly riffs and soaring bridges. “What Gives?” is a notable standout for its cool grooves and moody riffs, ultimately standing as one of the most accessible songs on this set, though the album, overall, is still Fog’s most accessible album overall. The title track finds Broder, Mark Erickson and Tim Glenn taking a detour back through electronic, hip-hop inspired sounds, though not without some classic rock guitar to offset the smooth beats. As the final third of the album begins to slow down, “What’s Up Freaks?” brings everything to a close with a country ballad sound that provides yet another unexpected turn. It’s not weird? Huh.
It makes sense that Broder would have a friend and collaborator in Phil Elverum, as the two have similar songwriting styles, opting for epic progressions and lots of distortion. That isn’t to say that Fog has released their Glow Part 2 just yet. After hearing this, though, I’m convinced they could.
Microphones – It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water
The Dismemberment Plan – Is Terrified
Enon – High Society
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.