Bear In Heaven’s new album is aptly titled ‘Time Is Over One Day Old’. It’s a record with a visceral relationship to time and its processes. Where invulnerability and ambition can support you as you grow, at some point they become dead weight and being true to yourself means casting them off, starting anew. This plays out as a powerful analogy for the band across the arc of their career.
They’ve always made intriguing records, here especially. It’s easy to see why musicians fall hard for this band. They entice and envelop you. Any ‘Bear In Heaven’ song will most likely greet you with a provocative beat, textural synthesizers and unassuming but adeptly supportive bass and guitar, all exquisitely arranged and glistening. Jon Philpot’s high, smooth, strong voice is so tightly wound into the music that it can be easy to overlook the lyrics, Bear In Heaven’s capacious third dimension. Philpot is a centre seeking, contemplative writer who captures the fleeting thoughts that underscore our emotional lives, the interactions with the world that are both difficult to express and anathema in daily conversation.
Here Philpot and partner Adam Wills are more deeply collaborative than ever. This album is darker at times, louder than their others; it feels personal and direct. ‘If I Were To Lie’ places Wills’ bass groove front and centre, ‘Demon’ is riveting and propulsive in spite of its dark pointed lyric and ‘They Dream’ dissolves into three and a half minutes of deeply satisfying ambient synth work in its second half. Wills has always been the band’s anchor, providing rock solid, rhythmic bass lines and guitars that blur the boundaries of Philpot’s synth. Though in moments such as the final track ‘You Don’t Need The World’ Wills cuts through with an audacious, biting guitar hook. It’s a great culmination of the album’s sense of release. This album isn’t about being dark, it’s about releasing darkness and frustration.
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Bear In Heaven return this week with some more of their dreamy synthpop - a dewy-eyed concoction which is one part Simple Minds/Ultravox synth'n'guitar dramatics and one part Pet Shop Boys/Hot Chip deadpan pop. It's a very polished mixture, with big compressed production and intricate synth programming driving the songs forward in a swirling amorphous mass.
They're at their most effective when they're going all-out pop but Bear In Heaven seem to have some '80s goth-ish leanings which mean that doesn't happen all too often, mostly opting for a propulsive trudge of synth textures and flatly-delivered, sometimes almost chant-like vocals. It's a heady mixture, professionally delivered, but does get a little samey over the course of an entire album. It's competent enough but a little lacking in variation and highlights.
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