The Belgian lo-fi Christian scene himself, Bram Cools, is back with a fourth album. More quirky weirdness accompanied by lyrics that tackle a wide range of social topics. I don’t know how familiar IVM readers are with this Belgian artist, but Bram makes eccentric lo-fi indie pop/rock with socially-conscious lyrics from a European viewpoint. He has over a dozen albums under his belt and Civilised is his latest full length. It stays within the lo-fi umbrella, yet true to that genre, touches on a variety of styles including indie rock, electronica, spoken word, trip-hop, etc.
Case in point: one of the most exciting transitions on the album is that between “Cyberluddism XI” (which features a sort of lo-fi techno) to “Lost” (which showcases what is essentially an acoustic guitar piece). The transition works well, but is particularly interesting in the way it shows Cools’ ability to flow between the various subgenres all the while keeping to the lo-fi aesthetic.
“Sister Sodoms Sins” has an 80s new wave synth beat with Bram’s typical rough singing, all the while tackling the subject of injustice, and “Triphop Instrumental 1” is . . . well, an instrumental trip-hop track, and perhaps one of the strongest on the album.
Cools’ singing voice is an acquired taste. It has that half-singing/half-spoken vibe similar to early Sonic Youth, but without the punk sensibilities. It could be part of why I am drawn to the instrumental tracks. Perhaps most refreshing are Cools’ lyrics. He tackles subjects American Christians artists rarely seem to discuss, like materialism (“Defenestrate Your Clutter”), gluttony and consumerism (“Sister Sodoms Sins”), paranormal conspiracy cults (“Doesn’t Exist”) and romantic love in the context of marriage (“Cuddle-Lovers”).
All in all, a rewarding listen, particularly for thinkers who might want to be challenged lyrically, or for fans of the lo-fi genre.