Album Review: Golden Fang’s ‘Small Worlds’ is a galaxy of pure delight, absent of formulaic tropes and filled with light and creativity

The Breakdown

'Small Worlds' creates a large, infinite universe - an immersive theatre with a surround sound experience where the creative, exploring songwriting is lifted even higher by a production that sparkles like the stars.
Independent 9.4

Golden Fang inhabit an entire universe of their own making that floats in the firmament and simply shimmers with an incandescent light. Tomorrow sees the release of their new album, ‘Small Worlds’ in which not only do their unique song talents and musicianship shine through, but with the added production of guru Anth Dymke, a whole new dimension is reached.

Dymke’s work with the fabulous Jo Meares has been well documented by me at Backseat Mafia and his ad hoc solo work is majestic.

I’ve always said of Golden Fang that that they eschew the norm – song structures are ephemeral, each track is a sort of movement, a presence that hangs in the air, ebbing and flowing, advancing and receding, rising and falling. The movement is endless, restless, hyperactive

Golden Fang don’t write songs, they write moments etched in the firmament that shimmer and shine, while singer Carl Redfern provides a yearning thread that binds the music together.

The band took an new approach to the recording of ‘Small Worlds’ which involved working with Dymke (Jo Meares, Pony Face), who took the band out of their normal routine by steering them away from the usual environment of a recording studio. Redfern explains:

Anth preferred to capture a live feel of us playing in our ‘natural habitat’ of rehearsal spaces and houses. Using those live sessions as a base we would then break the songs down, build them up and sometimes re-record them.

One of the great things Anth did was to really challenge us on what the songs could be. We gave him a seemingly mad brief of helping us make an album that was raw and honest sounding while also bringing out a cinematic feel in the songs.

The songs in question were written over a relatively long period of time and the threads that connect them started to coalesce after the recording of 2021’s ‘Man with Telltale Scars’ (reviewed by me here).

‘Let Yourself Go’ and ‘Dirty Hands’ are songs that had been in various states of almost ready for years. These songs are about different but related people and I always felt they belonged together, just waiting till they were both ready. That album really started to pull together in response to these songs, as a result the album started to develop a bit of a theme around the melancholy of nostalgia for past relationships.

Opening track ‘Sail At Dawn’ sets the scene with its aquatic rush of air, a haunting squeeze box intro with ghostly vocalisations and a hint of feedback that provides a sonic fog into which the song enters. It introduces a drum patter that brings to mind rolling waves in the open sea. Carl Redfern’s vocals bellow and call out like a pirate captain instructing his crew and the song swings and swaggers in the ocean with the bass a gimble in the storm. It’s a rousing call, a fitting welcome to the album as Redfern weaves his tall tale of exploration and adventure across the surface of the instrumentation. The chorus backing and the exhortations of the captain are exhilarating and, yes, even imbued with a thrilling pop sensibility. An atmospheric foghorn in the distance sounds out as a brief female siren in the distance adds a filigree of gold – the guest singer Donna Amini.

‘How Many Demons’ reintroduces that female voice as a velvet glove to the thunderous timbre of Redfern’s vocals. A crystalline jangling guitar line coasts under the surface while the trademark wandering style is present, and yet there is room for an anthemic chorus that bobs its head above the undulating surface. It’s another restless song that takes off across a vast seascape, twisting and turning like a seal in the water, fading out in a long musical outro.

Third track ‘Blue Boy’ is a reflective and dreamy journey that starts with simple guitars and vocals before sparking like a lit fuse, waking up from a languorous beginning and morphing onto something that revs its powerful engines and shimmies and shakes. The guitars from Golden Fang have a particular scything edge that cuts like contrails in a clear blue sky while Redfern’s vocals ache and yearn with emotion. Redfern says of the song:

‘Blue Boy’ is a song about the feeling of being in a relationship with someone who is struggling with the world around them.

I wrote it a few summers ago at a beautiful place called Currawong in the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. I was watching this young boy who’d swam on his boogie board quite far from the shore. His mother with increasing anxiety was calling him back, calls he was either ignoring or not understanding.

I happened to be sitting with my guitar fooling around with the chords for the song as I was watching this and the song just fell out. Musically we wanted to keep this song feeling raw and personal without it becoming too ballady or straight. We tried to treat it like a Velvets or Go-Betweens song which I think has really worked for the song.

There is an element of sunshine and broad swelling oceans in the music, ebbing and flowing, advancing and receding, shining in the crystal clear light.

The production is razor sharp – and as always with this band, it is the moments between the notes that create the atmospherics found in Golden Fang’s oeuvre, creating a whole that positively sparkles.

The accompanying luminescent video, directed by Redfern himself, captures the aquatic flow of the track – sunshine, waves and restless movement that carries you across the peaks and troughs:

‘Parramatta’, named for the population centre of Sydney in the west, is a song about memories and Redfern’s vocals introduce a tenderness, a poignancy with a hint of humour. The song shifts and turns like the eponymous train the protagonist travels on – a journey across the landscape filled with change and movement – last night was perfect, today, today is Parramatta.

‘Let Yourself Go’ has a fuzzy ambulant bass lurking under an ethereal synth as Redfern announces he is in one of those moods where I just don’t want to go out, his voice gentle and yearning as the song swerves into a jaunty pop swing and back again. Layered backing vocals add luster and the song has the feel of a long journey in a car across desert landscapes, elbows in the breeze.

‘What’s Thinking’ has an opening that jingles and jangles like The Church, the vocals again soft and dreamy with a psychedelic hue. It morphs into a fast paced thump and swings back and forth. Golden Fang don’t like to meet your expectations – they will lure in one direction and than do a handbrake turn when you least expect it. ‘I Found None’ has an almost folkloric medieval monk chant to it – Redfern eschewing his normal vocals and creating something more bucolic above the raging guitars. It is hypnotic, haunting, pastoral – a stunning aural landscape of a ship becalmed perhaps after a storm.

Perhaps more the eye of the storm, as ‘Dirty Hands’ swings in with a sledgehammer blow and whirly gig guitars and Redfern’s exhortations over the ranging fuzzy guitar riffs – a grungy REM/Sonic Youth blast replete with a wild solo that creates a dust storm in the desert. The song fades out in the trade mark Golden Fang style into a dreamy anthemic reverie that mops your brow and rests you gently down. It’s operatic – a tall tale told across many movements and arias. again – there is no scripts with the Golden Fang; you are at their mercy and the ship steers where it will.

The album ends with ‘Like A Ghost’ – a fitting reference to the opening track with its mystical Far East sounds in the distance and haunting atmosphere. A tremeloed guitar massages the ears, pulsing and echoing in the background as a lone guitar etches contrails in the sky and Redfern’s vocals are passionately restrained and poignant as the song seemingly floats on a bottomless ocean, becalmed and bemused. Donna Amini’s vocals add a haunting shimmer.

‘Small Worlds’ creates a large, infinite universe – an immersive theatre with a surround sound experience where the creative, adventurous songwriting is lifted even higher by a production that sparkles like the stars. The value created by the meeting between the minds of Anth Dymke and Golden Fang is immeasurable – the sonic journey we embark on is augmented by the production where the spaces in between the notes became just as essential and part of the sonic canvas.

‘Small Worlds’ is out tomorrow and available to download and stream everywhere. You can pre-order through the link below.

Golden Fang will launch the album on Friday, 15 March with Jo Meares and Donna Amini – details and tickets here.

Album Credits

Carl Redfern – Vocals, Guitar
Teo Treloar – Lead Guitar
Justin Tauber – Bass, Baritone Guitar
Joe Parkin – Drums, Percussion

Anth Dymke – Keyboards, squeeze box, additional sounds
Donna Amini – Backing Vocals

Produced by Anth Dymke & Golden Fang

Recorded & Mixed by Anth Dymke

Cover art – The Willing Embrace of Ignorance (2022) by Teo Treolar

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