Back in the pre Covid days of 2019 I was enthralled by the fifth album by German dream pop/punk outfit Fir Cone Children. Fog Surrounds Us has an eclectic catch all approach to songwriting that multi-instrumentalist Alexander Donat is renowned for. Like a magpie, he cherry picks all that is positive and life affirming and weaves it together into something quite magical. Imagine my delight when Alexander reached out to me and asked if I would like to premiere a key track from his up coming sixth album Waterslide at 7am. If you missed that blog you can find it here as we delve in to the amazing ‘Soaking In’.
Waterslide at 7am opens on the fizzy rush of ‘Panic in the Mansion’. As an allegory for the times we find ourselves in, the board game inspired lyrics couldn’t be more on the nose. There is something unsettling about this song whilst maintaining an almost jubilant thrall over the listener.
Next up is our premiere track from the weekend, ‘Soaking In’. After a solid week listening to this album ‘Soaking In’ remains my album highlight. See what I mean here.
‘How to Make a Paper Airplane’ finds Alex in an instructional mood, literally singing us the steps to making a paper aeroplane Channelling the spirit of Mark E Smith there are no prisoners taken in this onslaught. Repeated listens reveal a glorious melody holding the whole song together. Ghostly voices reminiscent of Blurs ‘Song 2’ or ‘Popscene’ make this song a favourite of mine.
‘Entangled’ is a post punk track but gloriously naïve and playful. It feels like Alex is having a lot of fun jumping between rhythms and tempos. Singing about his daughter playing with “three balls of wool” among the trees whilst “eating cheese slices” he continues his theme of dedicating his albums to his kids. That love is evident in every second of this song.
Krissy Vanderwoude returns to sing on ‘Gekko-19’ a contemplation on the life of an allegorical pet in a glass cage. Again, Alex’s voice pairs beautifully with Krissy’s leading to some breath-taking moments. One almost Beach Boys-esque moment really jumped out at me and will do for you too. It’s a slow burner of a track blossoming in the final minute. This is a song I will definitely find myself returning to.
‘Everyday is a Flood’ is Alex in full magpie mode. Underneath the wash of reverb lies a C-86 style track akin to Orange Juice or very early Aztec Camera. Then he sprinkles his magic dust over the top and this song becomes something really unique and very Fir Cone Children. The overwhelming nature of life is hyperreal at the moment as we live in lockdown. This song encapsulates that feeling so well.
Arriving on a sneak attack intro “When This Is Over” reminds me of Arcade Fire if they were a shoegaze band. This track dips in and out, returning more full on than it was before. Lyrically heart-breaking the song deals with a child’s view of this pandemic and their desire for it to all be over and back to normal, whatever normal was.
As if to counter the fear and worry of ‘When This Is Over’ we launch into ‘Max & Hax’ with a euphoric Whoo! A song based on a story Alex’s seven-year-old daughter wrote about two eagles called Max and Hax. The song has a childlike glee as it romps on. With flourishes that The Polyphonic Spree would be proud of the song is a real pick me up.
This magical thinking is carried into ‘Future Pirates’. Channelling his inner Graham Coxon, Alex moves at breakneck speed through a trip out paddling on the water in the “raft mom talked about the other day”. Maintaining humour whilst having riffs that rock as hard as this is a fine balancing act which he pulls off with ease. We go along for the ride and are so much happier for doing so.
From the euphoric to the grief of a child at the loss of their pet. ‘Furball Sun’ tackles this subject with care and love in each note. When Alex sings “Run Stella Run” you can’t help but get choked up. His choice of chords and melody at that point are so on the money it hurts.
Any parent can tell you about that moment in the middle of the night when your child wanders into your bedroom, maybe with a bad dream. In ‘A Tiny Crack’ Alex makes use of really dreamy chords to make us feel as woozy as that tired parent carrying their tiny charge back to their bed. The closing section had me paying very close attention. The complexity mirrored some of Radiohead’s’ finest moments around the In Rainbows period.
We close out the album on the allegorical title track. This track is absolutely bonkers and is the perfect way to finish. About a time when Alex’s daughter performed a song, she wrote with her dad, for a video clip that was made for a popular holiday parks brand in Europe. They had to meet at 7 A.M. in a waterpark before it officially opened to the visitors and she was overwhelmed by the situation. Alex takes that feeling and turns it into music. You can feel the elation, confusion and excitement in this song.
What listening to Waterslide at 7am has shown me is Alexander Donat is a master at observational song writing. He takes day to day situations, finds the spark, the magic in them and spins a song so beautiful from it you would never know where the inspiration came from. For me that is something to shout about. There are few acts that can do this to the level shown on Fir Cone Children albums. Add to this the fact that he plays all of the instruments himself and you have one exceptional musician at the top of his game.
Waterslide at 7am is available from the Fir Cone Children Bandcamp page now.