New York's Bear In Heaven, fronted by
vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jon Philpot,
dabbled in a vast spectrum of styles
from abstract noise to chamber music, and
from electronic impressionism to prog-rock, on the
EP Tunes Nextdoor to Songs (2004).
Red Bloom of the Boom (Exile on Mainstream, 2007)
Opener Bag Of Bags is a
confused sequence of electronic vibrato, fat drumming, emphatic shouts, etc,
but the seven-minute Slow Gold is a
more organic structure with a recurring melodic theme and melodramatic arrangements in the tradition of prog-rock. The piece employs enough
rhythmic imagination to sustain interest.
Werewolf is basically a ballad infected with psychedelic dizziness
and post-rock subtlety, whose most appealing moment is a Sixties-inspired female refrain.
The shorter Arm's Length fares better thanks to
more inspired digital noises, a brisk rhythm and haunting vocal effects.
The tense and evocative Fraternal Noon sounds like an excerpt from
Welcome to the Machine-era Pink Floyd
but with far less pathos.
Philpot's synthesizer and drummer Joe Stickney dialogue in a sublimely
incoherent manner. The problem is that the song constructs are not very
substantial, and too often it all amounts only to pop balladry in disguise.
The influence of the new wave of the late 1970s surfaced on
Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes, 2009), whose (shorter) songs were less
meandering and more poignant.
There are countless intriguing ideas:
martial drumming and bombastic vocals combine to shape
Beast In Peace;
Dust Cloud indulges in music that is barely out of tune but then
doesn't quite know what to do with it;
drums and keyboards annihilate each other in You Do You.
However, the band is clearly trying to be more consummable.
Lovesick Teenagers fits the requirements but it's ridiculously trivial.
A supersonic electronic beat surfaces in Wholehearted Mess, but that
too comes through as out of context. The more inspired
Deafening Love, at least, sounds like a remix of a
Sinead O'Connor threnody.
The syncopated frenzy of Fake Out mauls a relatively straightforward
Ultimate Satisfaction is Brazilian pop music played through a paper
shredder before soaring into a dream-pop croon.
The best compromise between the first album's progressive approach and the
new melodic push is perhaps Drug A Wheel, where
industrial polyrhythm and miasmatic waves meet a catchy rigmarole.
A close second is the last song, Casual Goodbye, that impales a
simple tune onto a sequencer and wraps it into an instrumental crescendo.
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