Produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence + the Machine), “Mountain At My Gates” builds from the leftfield grooves and angular art-rock that characterized previous Foals’ anthems such as “My Number” and “Miami”. This time, however, the quintet subverts expectations by twisting the track into a frenzied finale with a cacophony of sound.
“I’d recorded the beginning riff on my phone ages ago,” explained vocalist/guitarist Yannis Philippakis in a track-by-track interview with NME. “At the beginning it had a baggy feel, but became less so with more work. The central image – “I see a mountain at my gates” was from me getting more interested in seeing what would come out lyrically where there wasn’t a pre-conceived idea. Normally I write voraciously in books and journals, then harvest a lot of that for the record. This, though, came out instantaneously in the room.”
Foals’ thrillingly visceral return with title track ‘What Went Down’ earned a flurry of Radio 1 support (Hottest Record in the World, Tune of the Week and Track of the Day) as it accelerated past the million views mark at YouTube. The album is now available to pre-order on digital, CD, CD/DVD and vinyl formats, as well as a limited edition box set, which is available exclusively from Foals’ online store. Fans who pre-order the album will receive instant downloads of “Mountain At My Gates” and “What Went Down”.
As with the rest of the What Went Down album, Foals – completed by Jimmy Smith (guitar/keys), Walter Gervers (bass), Jack Bevan (drums) and Edwin Congreave (keys) – recorded “Mountain At My Gates” at the studio La Fabrique which is located in the same village in the south of France in which Van Gogh was hospitalised after savaging his own ear.
What Went Down is an album that grapples with questions that are a world away from the bland bleatings of homogenised pop: permanence and impermanence; life and death; solitude; vulnerability; intimacy; passion; rage; humanity – weighty issues that make demands of the people creating that music, and of all those who listen to it, too.
Sonically, it’s an album that precariously seesaws between primal aggression and naked vulnerability. It’s an approach that delivers a contrast of muscular shocks with the fiery central riff of “Snake Oil” and the menacing percussive march of “Albatross” set against some of the band’s most openly experimentally moments to date such as cocktail of afrobeat and drum machines that underpins “Night Swimmers” and the stripped-back, vocal-led “Give It All”.
The album closes on an astonishingly beautiful note with “A Knife in the Ocean”, akin to both the calm before the storm, but also the stillness and silence after it has passed.
Foals have released three top ten albums to date: Antidotes (2007, album chart no 3), Total Life Forever (2010, no 8) and Holy Fire (2013, no 2). 2013 was the year that Foals broke through (even though I’ve loved them since 2007). Appearing high up the bill at festivals around the world, Foals became festival headliners in the UK, headlining Bestival, Latitude and Parklife, drawing the biggest crowds of the weekends. By the end of 2013 Foals had won another slew of awards: Best Live Act at the Q awards, Best Live Act at The Sun Bizarre awards, Best Single (Inhaler) at the NME awards and a Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize nomination (the band’s second in a row).