First Draft - Declines Are Long Gone

16 Feb 2022 - Ben

Rock / Post Rock | LyloProd | Release date: 19 Feb 2022 | Favorite song: A Chapter On Each Page

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The dynamic French duo return to the fray with their second studio release – a multifaceted 5 track EP that’s part quiet introspection, part self-motivational speech and part fight song.

Formed in Tours, France, in 2016, First Draft are a duo that challenges the norm. Marine Arnoult sits on the drum stool, pounding those beats with metronomic precision and insistency, whilst also letting her voice soar and whirl. Meanwhile, to say that Clément Douam plays bass is like saying Zidane played football – true… that’s what he plays, but no-one plays it like he does! Douam’s combination of musicianship, technique, signal processing and dynamic sensibility create a fantastic counterpoint to Arnoult’s vocal flights and rhythmic slink.

Thematically, this release sees First Draft in an anxious mood: the global climate is going to hell in a handbasket and they’re feeling a sense of powerlessness and inevitability.

How did it get to this? Why haven’t we done anything about it? What can I do about it? Will it make any difference?

Throughout the EP, Marine draws parallels between personal relationships and the global environmental situation, cleverly posing those same – or similar – questions as though asked during the breakdown of a relationship.

Opening with the title track, we’re thrust directly into the key theme. A pacy, woozy bass and drum riff breaks into frantic accusations, seemingly directed toward a lover. As we progress, song starts to swoon, the vocals more reflective and mocking. The song carries on, changing gears, travelling through different emotions until we reach the self-awareness, “I wish I was somebody strong enough, realising the ending. I’d fight all the time.” It could be regret at the end of a relationship, it could be a realisation that something could have been done.

To start the album with such a statement of intent bodes well for the rest of the album. Each piece morphs and transforms as it unfolds, making sure that the listener doesn’t have a chance to tire of any particular part of a song. First Draft aren’t interested in cookie-cutter, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus songs - they’re here to challenge.

“Kneel Down In Silence” starts out like a bitter letter of resignation. Marine is out of fury and fire and she’s tired of this shit. The only anger she can muster is at her own fatigue. Halfway through she finds the words she needs to reignite her motivation and the resignation turns into a fight song, closing with angular screeches and squeals from Clément.

The music that First Draft produce belies the fact that there’s just two of them. It sounds like there are many more than just two musicians at work here, but watching some live videos they really can recreate the expansive studio sound. The quality of depth and range of Marine’s voice – as well as her ever-evolving percussion - works in true partnership with Clément’s melodic, screeching, angry, calm, driving, jangling, clean, distorted bass.

2018’s Irony & Smiles was a great debut release, but Declines Are Long Gone sees First Draft move the creative needle off the scale.