Monday, November 24, 2008
Much-blogged Duo Floats Above the Hype
This is a review I did a few weeks back, actually for class, and while a bit late, I like this record and think it's worth posting about.
Brooklyn duo High Places has a friendship that most of us can only dream of. Mary Pearson and Rob Barber met in 2006, and moved in with each other two days later. Their beguiling, abstract pop took longer to emerge - earlier this spring, they released a shimmering collection of singles, entitled 03/07-09/07, which referred to March to September 2007, the time in which the songs were created. The album, which was released exclusively through digital music store emusic, receiving quick online praise, include a 8.4 from Pitchfork. With Pearson singing “of dinosaurs and seagulls' wings” and other whimsical phrases, High Places might be considered child-like, if not outright childish. But her voice is wrapped around surprisingly sophisticated instrumentation, courtesy of Barber, who uses a variety of synths, drum effects and reverb to create backdrops suffused with mood.
Their MySpace page cheekily labels themselves “Surf/Hardcore/Trance,” but such disparate genres aren't entirely off the mark – Barber grew up with punk music and Pearson initially studied the bassoon. Jeff Meltz, a music blogger and photographer, approvingly called High Places “indie jungle” after an early performance at the Bowery Bowery last fall, and subsequent internet reactions range from delight to admiration, albeit with no real consensus on genre. If there was one popular complaint with 03/07 – 09/07, it was that the compilation lacked cohesion – that despite the similarities music, there was no common thread to united the tracks.
Now signed to Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey, High Places' official, self-titled debut is more focused, but retains free-spirited experimenting that makes it an effortless listen. While not a great divergence from earlier work, the album cements the band's appeal. Opener “The Storm” has Pearson floating up to high notes over a playful beat, “Vision's the First...” loops her sublime vocalizing, and closer “From Stardust To Sentience” is a cinematic outro.
Although High Places is unlikely to play anything larger than cozy clubs and dive bars, along with the occasional indie-minded festival, their modesty isn't necessarily a bad thing. In a hype-crazed industry, starved for the next big thing, High Places have circumvented the backlash. Despite their ethereal music, their promise is concrete.
MP3: High Places - Head Spins
Blog: High Places