Nomadic artist Fonohead has always been a bit enigmatic about his whereabouts, never quite clarifying his background and where he hails from. He once told me he splits his time in various European cities: London, Saint Petersburg, Riga.
That transient lifestyle plays a crucial role in his music—travel and personal reflection are common themes, never more so than in his signature song, “Metropolitan Child.” An ode to urban travel, its thoughtful, sublime lyrics capture myriad details like traffic lights and marble statues one might encounter exploring a new city.
“Metropolitan Child” appeared on Fonohead’s debut album, 2020’s A Broken Shape of Time, though he’d tinkered with it for years. He quickly followed with two more albums and a number of engaging singles, including the sprightly “Fighting Monsters,” proving himself as prolific as he is poetic.
Fonohead’s latest release, another full-length called The Captain Reik Diary, may be his most cohesive set yet, a magnificent and mature addition to a rapidly growing discography.
Captain Reik—named for himself; he’s sometimes credited as Eduard Reik— tells a complete story with a seafaring theme that unspools itself across 11 tracks. Its opening and closing songs play out like the first and last chapters of an epic novel. In chapter one, “I Left in Silence,” our protagonist sets sail upon the seas, becoming lost among its crashing waves. He returns from sea in the final chapter, “Sailing Home,” to tell his perilous story. The same sublime lyric—”Im going to steal you from the gray”—appears in both songs, lending the album a nice circular structure.
Fonohead examines all the emotional states one might experience on such a voyage. Loneliness and longing for home form a recurring motif, and insanity ensues at one point. Along the way, he encounters seafaring creatures that amp up his emotional state. A mermaid makes an appearance about halfway; later, unknown creatures with kaleidoscopic eyes approach from all sides.
All the while, the music gently roils like soothing waves. Its beats pound steadily forward—you’d be forgiven for falling asleep, lulled by the waves. Fonohead’s rich, warm voice glides across every track. He has a way of stretching single-syllable words like “star” and “stay” well beyond their station, filling the sounds with further melancholy.
Every song on Captain Reik plays a crucial part in the voyage, but the heart of the album and its best track is “Another Mile.” Here, tender bass pulses in and out of the song, and Fonohead fills his voice full of reverb as he sings of growing further away from a mysterious foil: “My eyes are pouring rain to drown the pain. Another mile away from you.” A lovely, staccato synth blasts off in the chorus, which lends the song an epic quality that’s equal part Pet Shop Boys and Pink Floyd. “Another Mile” is Fonohead’s best track since “Metropolitan Child.”
If I have any complaints, it’s that there’s too much of a good thing. Most of Captain Reik’s 11 tracks run more than six minutes, and they can occasionally feel adrift. A sort of lethargy settles in if you’re not paying careful attention.
Repeat listens to Captain Reik, however, pay off in droves as new details surface and new emotions emerge. It’s rare to hear an album this cohesive in both sound and storytelling. Fonohead has delivered his best release yet and one of the strongest albums of the year.
You can find The Captain Reik Diary on Spotify and Bandcamp.