Not one for lying down, Aoife Nessa Frances charms a steady course through the post-Protector release days. Her latest track, Fantasy, bridges a phenomenal release with her sophomore album into something more tangible and long-running. It is clearer now how Frances wishes to develop her work. Presenting these exceptional challenges and vivid memories is a warm and wonderful experience. Aching, slow-moving piano strokes are matched with a glistening harp to open Fantasy. In just a few moments, the layering and composition on the rise becomes a monumental shift, a standard practice for Frances whose work so often features integral, well-orchestrated changes in tone. Light percussion brings such a tremendous change through.
Winding through layer after layer, Fantasy feels more and more of the same cloth The Waeve were cut from earlier this year. Demanding and intricate details of instrumental security flow through and with grand atmospherics. They are the focus, and weaving lyrical strength such as this into the fabric is par for the course with Frances. Those moved by her work on Protector will find themselves right at home here, a song bursting with splendour and candid disclosures coming through in fine quality. Vivid conclusions flow through Fantasy and it certainly has all the charms of its titular feel. There is the lucid quality pushing forward with little resistance, the elusive charm of some twinkling, unreserved force which moves so naturally. Frances has clearly nailed this form and keeps on it with strong intentions.
There is something intimately knowable about those harpsichord flourishes, something settles into the mind and pours over this potential for nostalgia. Talk of constellations and the beg to stay feature so lovingly throughout Fantasy and it is hard to figure where Frances will take a listener next. Nothing shy of resplendent in parts, particularly when a break in lyric is filled with brass and warmth. Rising and rising as it does puts Fantasy up there as one of the best works from Frances so far, without a doubt. Hopefully, they are parts of a bigger project, something wise and wild to tide over those who still ride the waves of Protector. It certainly feels this way on Fantasy. Deeply mysterious yet open and assured in its statements, a confident approach like this cannot go unnoticed. Nor can Frances for much longer.
Delicate tones and silky-smooth instrumental spots are put in their place with perfection here. Frances has no trouble convincing of her light yet intense style. There is assurance and confidence in even the softest of touches and tones. Even when the self-doubt or reflection breaks through, it is paired with a dedicated and clear channel for her vision to glide over. Slot it into place with the likes of Here in the Dark, a well-remembered Frances song from a few years back. Clearer the style, clearer the intent. Fantasy pools some assured and delightful tones from its catalogue of listless loves and languid scopes come into play. It is easier to lounge on the couch, feeling remorseful while blasting Frances’ work than it is to dance to, but something like Fantasy makes both possible. A heart-wrenching delight in the best way possible.