Fred again.. - Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022) Music Album Reviews

Fred again.. - Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022) Music Album Reviews
On his third album in 18 months, the UK hitmaker applies a scrapbooker’s instincts to festival-ready house anthems. But despite the diaristic hints, we learn little about the artist.

Dance music is often framed as an escape from the everyday, but Fred again.. treats it more like a scrapbook on Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022), his third reality-based album in 18 months. As on its predecessors, Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020) and Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021), the 29-year-old hitmaker born Frederick John Philip Gibson collages together voice notes from friends, Instagram videos, and samples of important records from his life, offering a (purportedly) personal peek at the comings and goings of a top-level musician/songwriter/Ed Sheeran collaborator.

Diaristic songwriting is an unusual approach for house music, a style that tends to avoid the quotidian in favor of dreaming of promised lands. It worked for Fred again.. on “Marea (We've Lost Dancing),” a 2021 single that sampled a conversation with the Blessed Madonna about COVID-19’s devastating impact on the dance music industry, turning her somber reflections into an anthem that gave comfort during lockdowns and fueled elation as clubs re-opened their doors. On Actual Life 3, the source material includes a live recording of 070 Shake’s “Nice to Have,” which Fred has said is his most listened-to song of the year (on “Danielle (Smile on My Face)”), and his friend Delilah Montagu singing her song “Lost Keys” on Instagram (on “Delilah (Pull Me Out Of This)”).

The album’s backstory is far more remarkable than the results. Fred is an extremely competent producer: His drums, drizzled with the slightest hint of UK garage, swing and punch like they should; his piano melodies are robust with the requisite hint of tenderness; and everything radiates an expensive sheen. But there is nothing discordant in his music, nothing to make you sit up and wonder how the hell he pulled that off. In sound and style, there’s nothing on this record that Disclosure didn’t do a decade ago—or MJ Cole 10 years before that. “Delilah (Pull Me Out of This)” may well feature a vocal taken from a friend’s Instagram video but, beyond a slightly degraded sonic quality, there’s little to distinguish it from a million other vocal fragments throughout dance music history. Equally, it’s nice to know that Fred likes 70 Shake’s “Nice to Have”—but so do the millions of people who have listened to it on Spotify.

What makes this all the more frustrating is that Fred again.. is, by all accounts, a very interesting musician. He’s sung for Brian Eno, made a collaborative mixtape with drill star Headie One, and knocks up ambient sketches on the fly when he can’t find the right tune to listen to. But if these personal quirks do enter Fred again..’s music, they aren’t present here. It would be tempting to call Fred again.. the Ed Sheeran of house music, given his scrubbed-down sheen. But Sheeran at least strikes a personal chord with his legions of fans. Actual Life 3, for all its plundering of Fred’s browser history, feels too imprecise to make the kind of impression that “Marea” once did. The sentiments expressed in songs like “Bleu (Better With Time),” “Berwyn (All That I Got Is You),” and “Clara (The Night Is Dark)” are more Hallmark card than dark night of the soul.

After three Fred again.. full-lengths in the span of 18 months, we’re no closer to knowing who he is or why we should care about his intimately documented life, beyond the fact that he has fashionable friends, likes listening to music, and has experienced his share of grief in recent years. Of the three records, Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020) is probably the most interesting, its gently mournful air reflecting the claustrophobic times in which it was made. But three albums of this indistinct sadness—think Burial meets Disclosure as James Blake looks on longingly—is too much. Actual Life 3 clearly couldn’t have been made by just anyone, but it sometimes feels like it might as well have been. The documentary approach to music can work extremely well—Joy Orbison used samples from his personal life on his excellent 2021 mixtape Still Slipping Vol. 1 to create music that burst with familiarity, depth, and insight—but it often feels like Fred again.. is pulling away from the big reveal, chafing at the idea of giving too much away. There’s no essence revealed here. You hope that recording Actual Life 3 was cathartic for him, but for the listener it feels slightly indulgent, with the troublesome hint of a memory card full of vacation photos.

Actual Life 3 has moments of brilliance and will certainly connect with big festival crowds. The distressed ending of “Kelly (End of a Nightmare)” is genuinely exhilarating; “Delilah (Pull Me Out of This)” has an irresistibly white-knuckled, belly-tickling momentum; and “Eyelar (Shutters)” places a beautiful synth-trumpet melody at the center of its laconic shuffle. But music that focuses on reality tends to work best when it is doggedly cinematic or highly relatable; Actual Life 3 is neither, instead frequently slipping into mundanity. Real life is all well and good, but most people get enough of it from just living.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Fred again.. - Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022) Music Album Reviews Fred again.. - Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 05, 2022 Rating: 5


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