Barcelona’s Fatamorgana have followed up their self-titled cassette single from 2018 with a (at the time of writing this, maybe not so) brand new full-length, entitled Terra Alta. There are elements of Terra Alta which are somewhat familiar—the duo of Fatamorgana is comprised of Louis Harding and Patrycja Proniewska. Those who have been paying attention to the efforts of the inimitable Paco at La Vida Es Un Mus will recognise Proniewska’s voice from her work in Belgrado, who released the stellar album Obraz on LVEUM in 2016.
Musically, Belgrado and Fatamorgana aren’t dissimilar. While I am hesitant to draw too many comparisons, it will suffice to say that they both deal in the gloomier end of (post)punk. But whilst Belgrado is most definitely a guitar band, Fatamorgana is centred around a drum machine and synthesiser. There are a number of words that could be used to describe Fatamorgana: cold, stark, driving, icy. Comparisons to winter abound and are easy to make—even the cover of the record invokes a grey, somewhat lunar landscape. These same tropes are employed time and time again todescribe similar sounding records, of which there have been a surplus over the past few years.
Terra Alta is somewhat different to those, though.
Terra Alta is a pop record.
Whilst it may be firmly situated within the context of coldwave, post-punk, goth, new wave, synth pop or any other name you want to throw at it, Fatamorgana have crafted a great fucking pop record. It’s dark and gloomy, but these songs are catchy and well-crafted. The synth lines are infectious, the beats are driving and if I could understand Spanish, I’m sure the choruses would be stuck in my head. Perhaps the closest comparison I could draw between Fatamorgana and another act would be the gone-too-soon CC Dust, who peddled a somewhat similar brand of new wave/synth pop/whatever else that was couched within the punk and DIY background of the members (in the case of CC Dust, vocalist Mary Jane Dunphe also played in Vexx), or perhaps a somewhat faster Molly Nilsson.
As I’ve previously stated, Terra Alta is a pop record. And as great as the songs are, it suffers from some problems that are perhaps all too common with pop records, namely that it is a trifle long and there is a lack of diversity in what is presented. Clocking in at just under 45 minutes, there is no break in the first half of the record until the whispers that introduce “Espacio Profundo” and after that, the record maintains a similar pace under the closing track “El Desvanecer Del Futuro” (in my opinion, the strongest and most dynamic track on the record). It doesn’t grow tiring per se, but it makes it somewhat difficult to maintain attention the whole way through, the listening experience is marked by the bits that stand out from the others—hooks, synth lines, vocal refrains, all of which are aided by the (very) clean production.
That being said though, Terra Alta is a great record and with it, Fatamorgana have dialled into a sound that many attempt, but few do as well as this. You may not catch me sitting down to listen to it, but I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t be dancing my ass off should they ever make the trip Down Under.