Charleston’s John Haas, operating under the name Fabulist FM, has created a unique addition to the South Carolina musical scene with his self-recorded and self-produced Roots Cracked EP. Haas, who is also known for playing in the duo, Rusted Revolution, has masterminded an interesting solo project, using his iPad as his main recording tool, which gave him a little more freedom to experiment beyond the confines of his usual live stage show. All of the guitars, vocals and electronic effects are straight from his hands (with maybe one little exception, which we will get to later). The resulting style is a quirky, but effectively poppy style of alt rock with a strong undercurrent of hip hop/ trip hop.
Opener “Snake Bite” prefaces with an ominous electronic blur before he counterpoints that theme with bluesy guitar leads. It’s a song about bars and drinking and other things and in it the singer introduces us to his idosyncratic vocal articulation, a conversational style of singing that doesn’t sacrifice hooks or sing-along-ability, but draws the listener in with a kind of co-conspiratorial vibe. The title track has a strong hip hop feel with its glitchy beats and the singer’s cadence, which could be filed under “rap” in some people’s minds. The calliope/ circus-like atmosphere here reminds me of They Might Be Giants, which is a comparison Haas acknowledges he often receives. “Drips” shows a great understanding of alt rock guitar writing and I can see a Frank Black influence at work here. “iRelief (featuring Siri)” is a shout of frustration against the bombardment of electronic overload in our lives, probably meant as an ironic comment upon an album completely made with the aid of an iPad. It’s nice to know he credited the voice of all things Apple here as a collaborator, as he samples her to comic effect. In this song (probably my favorite here), rock guitars and keys float behind the electronic beats as John uses his singular voice to combine for a majorly catchy chorus. Last track “Gravity” is a rock song that alternates between mellow and moody guitar effects and a harder alt rock chorus, with more of Haas’ catchy vocal effects being the draw here.
A recent transplant from Vermont in 2016, the new Charlestonian is getting heavier in that local scene with both his duo and a weekly hosted open mic. Hopefully, the Roots Cracked EP is only a first small foray into releasing music as a South Carolina artist and we will hear more great stuff from Fabulist FM in a longer format in the near future.
Recommended if you like: Frank Black, They Might Be Giants, Cake