Other websites with longer names and larger vocabularies will spill much digital ink on a release like Believer, the first full album from New York musician Bill Gillim performing as Megafortress. There will be discussions of whisper-quiet experimentalism and indie-pop moved into fragile and beautiful new directions. It’s ghostly, it’s spare, it’s dark—but it falls flat. Let’s spare you the gibberish and half-truths; the only thing different here is the level of bravery involved in presenting far too simplistic sounds as the next big thing.
One shouldn’t doubt that Gillim has more actual musical talent in his little finger than mxdwn has collectively as a staff; he’s the one with the record deal. The problem is, Believer doesn’t show that off. This simply doesn’t feel like an album made with significant effort. Everything about Megafortress sounds amateurish and juvenile here—from the poor-man’s Ben Gibbard vocals (“Live in Grace”) and too-easy thematic connections (“white faces” = death or angels in “Believer”), to seven minutes of the same three sax notes played over and over (“Fear”) with the hope that someone would find it innovative.
“Never Becomer” is the only song on here with anything resembling a pulse, its flutelike synths chopped up as Oneohtrix Point Never is wont to do. But Believer keeps running into the same problems. There are too few horn blasts to suggest any particular Coltrane. The arrangements and ambience are too safe to suggest the energy of a Coil or Xiu Xiu. Gillim’s singing is unable to grab and shake like, say, Antony Hegarty, and his cyclical notes and melodies annoy rather than engage. Megafortress has made an altogether thin release—thin on excitement, substance, and direction.