Singer-songwriter Bonafide Fabian’s debut EP, “New and Improved Old Fashioned Folkadelic,” lives up to its lengthy title. The seven-song record is full of swelling piano riffs, languid harmonica notes and synth interjections to add edge to its tracks. “NIOFF” serves an intriguing mix of genres like folk, rock and psychedelic that is both endearingly simple and surprisingly complex.
“NIOFF” imparts the cozy feeling of being around a campfire with friends with its distinctively twangy basslines and inspired delivery. It has the sort of nostalgia that makes listeners smile as they hear tracks like “Yo Delay” or “Forthcoming Nights.” The first few songs of the EP are upbeat, but the tempo slows as the EP progresses. The shift is subtle, allowing all of the songs to flow together nicely.
Fabian’s debut EP is dedicated to his late grandfather, James “Poppa” McClarren, according to an email from Fabian. McClarren supported his grandson’s artistic endeavors but unfortunately died just before the EP’s release. Fabian seeks to create an organic experience for each listener that connects to this loss and aims for a sense of magic throughout the EP. The EP’s earnest and tender songs make this connection easy to form and impossible to ignore.
The EP features a tonal shift that also occurs throughout the album, transitioning from a more psychedelic influence to a heavier folk inspiration. Fabian’s successful incorporation of these developments in the brief runtime of the EP is impressive, making the entire track listing sound dynamic and alive.
The EP kicks off with “Pick It Up,” a drum-heavy track featuring psychedelic synth riffs that add dimension to the song. Initially, the only sounds are Fabian’s voice and the drumbeat, but, later, a synth and guitar fill the rest of the song gloriously while his voice fades into the background. An energetic guitar riff opens the next track, which eventually melts into a soft strum under Fabian’s lyrics. The twinkling synth takes the listener on a journey up and away from reality, creating a complex atmosphere.
The psychedelic vibe persists with the track “Big Mystery,” which is arguably the most synth-heavy song on the EP. Its dreamlike sound is accentuated with soft background “ahs” and a dribbling backbeat. Fabian’s deep voice is shadowed by an airy female voice, and the song’s guitar adds just enough edge so as to not overtake the song.
“Forthcoming Nights” serves as EP’s highpoint, as it begins the shift toward more of a blues and folk influence that complements his sound more powerfully. It is a sultry and sweet love song that features piano as well as synth and finds Fabian drawing out the ends of his verses in an endearing way. Its distinct features make it stand out from the crop of love songs in modern music, and listeners can feel the complexities of the track as well as its sincerity.
The folk aspect of “NIOFF” shines through strongly on “Yo Delay,” which opens with simple guitar chords and harmonica. Fabian sings his blues lyrics with just enough country twang to match the instrumental, and even listeners who do not usually like folk or country songs can appreciate its beauty. Fabian’s “yo delays” start deeply rooted in the song and seem to float up and away, marked by a small popping noise that accentuates each beat. Fabian shows off some vocal range on the track, which pops in the context of the EP.
The EP’s penultimate song “All Comes True” opens with soft beatboxing that morphs into a more tropical-sounding beat. Soft harmonica comes in over Fabian’s soft words, and the song comes alive a minute in when the backbeat is added. Suddenly all aspects blend, and the only constant in the song is Fabian’s soft voice, kept somewhat in the same tone throughout the track. The song features some subtle synth, but its sounds mimic those found outdoors instead of distracting from the folk style of the song.
“NIOFF” closes with a slow song, like any good night out does; “Ready For You” is hopeful for the future while remaining fond of the past. Another touching love song, the final track deploys harmonica in an unusually soft way, and the guitar strums convey sweetness just as much as Fabian’s words do. “Ready For You” goes all out for the last 30 seconds of the song, when Fabian creates a crescendo with his powerful voice. Then, it fades away gently, leaving the listener deeply lost in thought.
Fabian creates musical atmospheres that evoke memories, emotion and reflection in those who hear it. His ability to combine airy synths with smoky beats and twangy harmonica riffs makes “NIOFF” an incredible album. With an unexpected combination of aspects that amount to a refreshing style, Fabian’s “NIOFF” is a musical treasure.