Fragile State’s debut album The Facts and the Dreams was released in September 2003 on the Bar De Lune label. Fragile State are Ben Mynott and Neil Cowley. They wrote, arranged, mixed and produced all of the ten tracks on The Facts and the Dreams. Both of them have a wide range of experience in the music industry. Previously, they have arranged, mixed and produced many tracks and albums for a wide array of artists. Neil Cowley is a keyboard player and has played with a number of groups including Zero 7, and is an accomplished producer, having previously produced a number of artists. Ben Mynott may be known to some people through his other “job”. He is music journalist and has written for many publications including Blues and Soul. Although this was Fragile State’s first album, they previously released a track Nocturnal Beats on the Nocturnal Beats label. 

The Facts and the Dreams is named after a title in a rare 1920’s German architecture book.  Within this album, what you will find is a blend of various types of music including soul and jazz. However, this is no ordinary album, this is an album with an aim. The aim of the album is to reflect the dream of social utopia, both beautiful and fragile. One may think that is a grandiose aim, but when you listen to this album you will find some beautiful, laid back music. This is truly an album that would grace any record collection.

The first song on The Facts and the Dreams is Song of Departure. This track starts with a mid-paced drum beat and then features some gorgeous vocal snippets and samples. Also present is a soulful groove and some lush arrangements. This give this track a glorious summery vibe that clearly has its roots in vintage soul music.

The second track The Barney Fade starts with a slow keyboard solo, and then there is the introduction of some lovely strings. Throughout the track, the tempo is slow, never moving much above eighty beats per minute. This track benefits from the fact that the arrangement and production sees less rather than more in the way of samples and instruments used.

Hoop Dreams is an exquisite track. Like the previous track, the tempo is slow.  Mynott and Cowley have been sparing in what instruments they have used to make this track. Too often, artists and producers seem to think that the more instruments, beats and samples used in a song the better it will be. Here, a minimalist approach has been used in the arrangement and production, and this improves the song. On the next track The Facts and the Dreams the same approach has been used, and works well. One of the highlights of the track is Cowley’s keyboard solo, which meanders throughout the track. What we have here is a beautiful, dreamy and atmospheric track, that is one of the best on the album. 

Suck It and See is the next track and the pace is just a fraction quicker. It is about eighty-two beats per minute yet seems a faster track. Again, Cowley’s keyboard playing is a highlight of this short track. The track is over too soon, and I found myself wishing that the track lasted longer, and felt that it had the feel of an underdeveloped track, one that although good, could have been improved.

Panacea has a much different tempo that the previous tracks. The tempo is almost the level one would expect on a house track. This is not to say that this is not a good track. Quite the opposite. It is a nice enough track that benefits from being well arranged and produced. The standard of musicianship is very good, but it is not of the standard of the first four tracks.

Every Day A Story is very much a return to form for Fragile State. The tempo drops and the song has a lush arrangement and the keyboards, drumbeats, strings and vocals make this a lovely atmospheric track that reminds me of sunny days in exotic far away places. 

The track Barney Reprise is a pedestrian and dreamy track, true chill-out or downtempo music, whichever you prefer. It is a short track, just one minute and twenty seconds in length. Unlike Suck It and See this is a short track that works.

Seraya has many qualities as a track. These include, Cowley’s keyboard playing, the vocal samples and the sparing use of drumbeats. This is another track that has benefited from a minimalist production. Fragile State don’t go in for bells and whistles on the production of the track. This helps, rather than hinders the track and what they have ended up with, is a glorious track.

The final track on the album Undercurrent is a fitting way to finish this album. It is one of the highlights of the album. It is a slow paced track where the use of a ponderous, spacey, drum beat and snatches of a female vocal give the track a depth and quality. The use of percussion also go a long way to providing a variety of sounds that hold the listener’s attention. From start to finish, this track is almost perfection, and I am sure that anyone who listens to this track will be taken by its quality and beauty.

Having read this review of The Facts and the Dreams I hope that I have convinced you that this is an album that you should invest in. It is, in my opinion, one of the best downtempo or chill-out albums of the past fifteen years. Granted it may not be up there with Carboot Soul or Smoker’s Delight by Nightmares On Wax, but that does not mean it is not a bad album. Quite the opposite. This album has some beautiful music on it and is well arranged and produced. It really is an album that that will soothe your soul, and you will find yourself drawn to it, returning to listen to it time and time again. Should you enjoy this album, Fragile State’s second album Voices From the Dustbowl is also worth exploring. It too is a quality album, and should you like The Facts and the Dreams then you will also enjoy Voices From the Dustbowl . Maybe you should take a chance, and buy both albums, because I am sure you will find that it is money well spent. Standout Tracks: Song of Departure, Hoop Dreams, Every Day A Story and Sereya.


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