Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Happy Particles – Under Sleeping Waves – Review

Here in California it is still the night before Christmas and even though ‘Under Sleeping Waves’ is downloading  right now, the Happy Particles’ new record surely shouldn’t be counted as a 2011 release. I hereby petition to change the rules to reflect that anything released after December 25th counts toward the next year’s best of lists.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched ‘Inni’ just prior to sitting down to listen, but the opening bass lines of ‘Infinite Jet” quickly dispels that atmospheric comparison of the lead track ‘Aerials’.  I can’t shake the feeling that I already know this voice.  I can’t place it and quickly settle in. Toward the end of the song the ‘tape speed’ suddenly slows down. One can’t but help but wonder why. The third track ‘Slowness’ explains it somehow.  The established pace continues with the 4th cut. It is dreamy and delicate. A little trepidation does set in though. Surely this pace won’t be maintained throughout the record? So often I battle with what I want to happen on a record and what is actually unfolding before me. ‘Offline Contact’ doesn’t really stray from what has gone on before. At this point, it is pretty clear a second pass will be necessary before I can even form an objective opinion.

The lovely string arrangements on a ‘Reprise’ raise the anticipation. In a way it all hinges on the next song. This is a very quiet introspective record. There is an undeniable beauty here and ‘Come Home all Dead Ones’ typifies just how lovely the record is. Lyrically it has not engaged me emotionally yet. The unintended comparison to Sigur Ros might be more appropriate than originally thought. I’m most familiar with the next song ‘Empty Circle’. It is an excellent song. I’d go so far as describe it as the diamond in what has been a gradual and elaborate sonic setting that has been constructed for it so far. It has a hint of an edge and it is all too easy to imagine how it would close a live set. I clearly need to lose my conception of this record as just a series of songs.

There is something impenetrable about it on the first listen. ‘Classes in Silence’ another haunting instrumental piece provides the book end to ‘Reprise’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much pressure put on a last song to inform my first opinion of a record over all. I know what I want to end the record; I really have no idea what it will be. Something hauntingly beautiful – ’10 Am Sky’ – fits the bill. It is shimmering and lovely end of a near perfect length. Then the short gap and subsequent instrumentation throws you off guard forcing you to reassess the ending again. The second listen from the top will have to wait until the morning.

Christmas morning, with the soft glow of the tablet monitor … I fully understand the first 2 and ½ songs. I know that “70 percent” of the record is ‘storyboarded’. The opening is executed brilliantly. It is as if the e ‘Infinite Jets’ slowdown toward the end of the song is somehow deliberately telling the listener that the aptly named follower ‘Slowness’ is the actual pace and heart of the album.  Knowing that vinyl was likely envisioned from the beginning, ‘Offline Contact’ is a satisfying end to the first side. ”Say one thing true – I dare you” – starting to be able to see past the beauty of the vocal and appreciate the lyrics. They are broad brush strokes that can be interpreted any number of ways; they are both lovely and evocative.

The decision to start side B with ‘Reprise’ is perfect; clearly another set-piece. I have a much firmer grasp on the scale and pace of the record. It is simultaneously epic and close and introspective at the same time. I can’t wait to pick up the vinyl version of this – the record begs to be played in that format.  By now it is clear how ‘Empty Circle’ shines as the centerpiece of the second movement. The static lead in and the end to the next instrumental piece is very effective as is the piece itself to continue the feel of ‘Reprise’ and set the stage for the finish and  ’10 AM Sky (Bleary)’ delivers; a haunting ending to a spectacularly beautiful record.

The 2 best things about bandcamp are the ability to listen to an entire track or album and the fact that the money goes directly to the artist. There really is no point to the preceding words. I am very reluctant to even post them. They represent my inarticulate attempt to capture my feelings of the listening to the record for the first time. Countless reviews will be more eloquent and they might even mention a Sigur Ros reference or three. It is hard to imagine that this won’t hold up as being one of the best of 2012, even if I’m the only blogger who acknowledges the wisdom of that convention.