Wax Poetics has been a long time coming for Battersea duo Sam Frankl and Jerome Shapiro. Despite the melodic riffs and stylized stabbing drums, it would be all too easy to compare this debut EP to The xx. Although clearly influenced, Red Room have filtered a certain coldness and distance from this EP, applying a seemingly instinctual and heartbreaking blues feel to a minimalist structure. The band place a special emphasis on their live shows, boasting a unique variety from show to show, with one-off performances from an array of musicians. This sentiment is somewhat projected onto the record, enthusing it with a sense of adaptability, purity of content, and musical ‘Wax’.
‘I’ll Be Fine’ opens the EP, and exhibits an emphasis on contemporary yet simplistic production. Frankl expressed the intension to ‘showcase our songs in the purest form’, and this certainly comes across from the start. The beat and melody is the skeleton for an interwoven structure of subtly moving shimmering guitar riffs, and passionately sung, strikingly personal lyrics. However, at times, Red Room’s simplistic sharp beats are in danger of becoming clumsy and sounding somewhat poorly constructed, and for some their style could seem like a cheap imitation of the bands that clearly influenced them. Nevertheless, in my opinion there is far more depth and originality to ‘Wax Poetics’ than this, and the authentic poignancy of these three songs is only amplified from listen to listen.
Lean On Me is the highlight of the EP for me, not only carrying through, but also furthering, the touching personal tone heard in ‘I’ll Be Fine’. Serena Clare, Frankl’s niece, sings alongside him, and the two compliment each other brilliantly. Clare also wrote the track, which has been reworked several times since its conception, and harbors a host of raw talent in its lyrical and instrumental content. This track is where the EP sounds most and least like The xx. There are obvious similarities in the cool, broken beat and cyclical melodic guitar, but Red Room differ in their powerful honesty, which offsets the distancing coldness conjured by these production devices. Both Shapiro and Frankl are heavily influenced by, and have a long history in playing the blues, a genre which can certainly be heard in the EP, and in ‘Lean On Me’ in particular. The humble, yet twisting and sorrowful guitar, provides a current and somewhat experimental sound, laced with the ghost of the blues. ‘Lean On Me’ is a warm, catchy and heartfelt song, constructed with a great deal of care and depth, which unravels further at every listen.
The moodier ‘Like Marriane’, although darkly intriguing and climactic, is the weakest of the three, I would say. I found myself pining for more of a utilization of both of the talented musicians, and got the sense that the track does not fully express the passion for music which is clear to see in both Frankl and Shapiro. However ‘Like Marriane’, like the other two tracks, grows on you with every listen, and truly only appears this way when crushed under the weight of ‘I’ll Be Fine’ and ‘Lean On Me’.
‘Wax Poetics’ effortlessly infects the listener with its emotionally sincere atmosphere. Sam Frankl’s voice remains genuine and distinctively powerful, especially when supported by Clare, and intertwined with the unique, moving, and stylized guitar riffs. The band consider that live music ‘is in a state of crisis’, and there is certainly a sense that this EP is somewhat circumstantial. Although ‘Wax Poetics’ is a collection of polished and finished products, the band have not pinned themselves down to a particular sound, and will undoubtedly surprise and adjust for their live shows. The EP exhibits artistic content over restricting production, and presents an astoundingly honest and heartfelt three tracks. The honesty and care which went into this collection of songs is mysteriously apparent, it is not easy to identify exactly how, and so it will leave you moved and intrigued, impatient to know where Red Room will find themselves next.