Julian Williams doesn’t make it terribly easy to find Foreign Film online. The Australian avant-pop songsmith has been active in multiple musical forms since the late 80s, as a member of the collective Hi God People, as front man of Inevitable Orbit, as a composer and playwright, and as a solo artist releasing 14 or so independent recordings. After such a span, perhaps an artist doesn’t need or want to incessantly court our disposable attention cycle. Whatever conjectured reason for its absence (I couldn’t even find a hard copy to purchase), my review covers a series of tracks cobbled together from tangential links, possibly incomplete and certainly out of any intended context. I’m sure you could spin an opinion piece on how this process gives Foreign Film a greater personal association, as I had to seek out these songs instead of clicking a provided link. But fuck that. It’s just a great set of songs.
To fill out his voice, Williams chooses not to heap overdubs but to streamline with loops. A single short drum machine pattern repeats with trance momentum throughout each entire song. Interlocking guitar lines hum with the still movement of the open ocean. What is most interesting then is how the vocal melodies and implied harmonies phase in and out of this churning undertow. Highlight “Moss Ages” approaches raga territory with its ringing octave drones, with Williams systematically exploring a small pool of notes in relation to the multi-timbred tonic. The songs move tectonically forward with or without him, and at times he is forced to negotiate through the cracks or strain out above the machinery, to expressive ends: the last minute or so of “I Will Rejoice Anyway” swoons upwards from the dictated path of the guitar, adding a viola countermelody as Williams pushes for the high notes like a ballsier Robert Smith. It’s not Minimalism, but colorful arrangements of fragmentary pop songs, as if John Cale came up with a more brooding 80s group.
Foreign Film is an electric blanket for the impending New England chill: parallel layers, relaxing and warm, but teeming with energy that could burn your house down.
Below are the links I could find. Some are part of a radio playlist, so scroll until you find the correlating pop-up player.