What is it with Brooklyn? Does the borough spawn
new talent or does new talent gravitate towards it?
Either-which-way Bear In Heaven seem to be making some
kind of mark but you are likely to require a fairly robust
constitution to appreciate the finer points of their raison d'etre.
'Beast Rest Forth Mouth' makes a big sound.
Densely-layered music with serious intentions.
Four very solemn young men on a mission.
Messrs Philpot (voice, guitar and keys); Bazarra (bass and keys);
Wills (guitar and bass) and Stickney (drums) are clearly on the
same wavelength and work ernestly together to co-construct
their coherently moribund vision. The prevailing miserable mood
is heroically sustained. No-one cracks even the faintest smile.
(Perhaps no-one dares!)
There is little respite in this collection of ten compositions.
The sun refuses to shine. It seems, in fact, to be kept willfully at bay.
Start with 'Dust Cloud' for immediate elucidation
of their dark manifesto. The wobbly dirge creates
an uneasy ambience pinned down still further by
Mr Philpot's vocal approximation of a sort-of one note
samba from hell. The sonic structure opens out a bit
towards the end but the general mood of contrived gloom
is not compromised for a moment.
'Drug A Wheel' almost sounds as though things might be
trying to cheer-up a tad in the quasi-Beach Boys demeanor
of the introduction but any hope of an easy ride is swept
away by the impenetrably miasmic mists of the closing bars.
By the time I had reached the pounding lamentation entitled
'Fake Out' I had very nearly lost the will to live.
Mono-tonal. Monotonous. Miserable (...but not in a good way!).
At Your Own Risk.
on 1 April 2010
Further proof that Brooklyn is both magnet and hotbed, Bear In Heaven's current four-piece call it home despite all originally hailing from the less-celebrated centres of Georgia and Alabama. Building on their debut's warm, psychedelic prog, Beast Rest Forth Mouth (East West North South) is a large-scale progression that neatly welds krautrock and strong pop melodies onto their solid chassis.
Losing a member in between albums was unfortunate but inevitable when it was School Of Seven Bells that came calling. Their alluring psych-gaze partners Bear In Heaven's kraut-pop well in all but track length. Jon Philpot's attainable vocal and Bear In Heaven's collective four-minute takes prove direct without being overly succinct, poppish without being too eager to please.
Featuring heavy delay, Beast Rest Forth Mouth shudders around aural space, generously throwing in identifiable choruses so seemingly absent elsewhere in the scene. The mid-tempo stomp of the opener "Beast In Peace" hardly ignites the album yet sets it smouldering with drawn-out drone over hand-drummed rhythms. The skittish psych-pop of "Wholehearted Mess" then introduces a rising synth pattern carried over into the irrepressible "You Do You".
The mood is duly soured for "Lovesick Teenagers", which runs with mournful synth chords yet undeniable determination. The huge rolling buzz and lollop of highlight "Ultimate Satisfaction" deserves a worthy vocal and Philpot provides it affecting wave after wave of Billy-Corgan-gone-pop emotion.
Best Rest Forth Mouth veers away from its poppier hunting crowds on "Deafening Love". Understandably loud and allowed free reign on quality speakers it reveals itself to be a multi-layered offering heavy on menace and bass. "Drug A Wheel" is altogether darker and trudges through entrancing and paranoid sludge like Indian Jewelry might with an unhealthy keyboard dependency.
Bear In Heaven have a curious album on their hands. Neither summery psych nor crossover pop, neither indulgent nor clear in its aims, Beast Rest Forth Mouth isn't the best of any of the directions it takes, yet resolutely finds itself heading for warmly likeable, if muddled, shores.