Artist: Bear In Heaven
Album: I Love You, It’s Cool
Format: Physical and download LP
Bear In Heaven are a slightly difficult proposition for a reviewer; they don’t really exist in any particularly easily descriptive genre (electro, noise, shoegaze all apply) more specific than ‘indie,’ which is a fairly redundant term for any listening purposes.
Two albums ago, it was a very different case. On Red Bloom Of The Boom the sound is definitely alternative indie- clicks and drones dominated the LP, to be expected of a band emerging in the after-hours of Jon Philpot’s job in a recording studio. Dischordancy and a tinnitus wash of noise were designed to overwhelm and submerge the listener- songs like Fraternal Noon are almost reminiscent of something like the enormous wall of chugging drone that Tim Hecker created out of Isis’ Carry and although synths are present, guitars carry the bulk of the instrumentation.
Second album Beast Rest Forth Mouth changed things a little- the drones became more directed, rhythms played a bigger part and the vocals suddenly began to soar. Post-Vampire Weekend appropriated beats mingled with chugging thrum and the sound evolved to an almost aggressive thump in places, more kinetic now that it had got out of the studio and onto the stage, perhaps. You Do You in particular had elements of Ian Brown-style psychedelia and a swaying quality enormously appealing to any indie disco worth its salt.
Subsequently, the remix album took a more direct approach and dragged listeners straight onto the dancefloor; the studio remix of You Do You, in comparison, removes any last vestigial umbilical link to the noise attack of parts of their first LP
Two years later, I Love You, It’s Cool had become a hotly-anticipated release, probably not least because of the dancefloor-friendly remixes and Philpot’s not-at-all unpleasant, downbeat vocal. Either to reassure early fans that they hadn’t abandoned ambience or to drum up hype (or a convenient combination of the two) the band initially streamed the album in full on their website, slowed down 400,000% to a total play length of 294 hours. The stream is no longer active but this video shows a lot of the process and then a burst of the noise wash after about 3:30 -possibly deliberately timed, as the canonical average length of a pop song.
The slowed-down, washy ambience is beautiful but it’s a trick that’s proved effective with transforming even pop hate figure Justin Bieber into a swooning, ambient swirl. Similarly, the most beautiful, complex constructions plunge towards formulaic happy hardcore when pitch-shifted 150%; it’s a lovely stunt but a lovely stunt doesn’t tell you a great deal about the original work.
The slowing down was a screen; a record two years in the making speaks of obsession, if not nervousness and releasing it into the world with high expectations facing a band is daunting. What better modesty panel than turning it into a drone? That keening, stretched noise will forever be associated with the album as much as the contents itself, a pre-emptive remix to guard against what anyone else could say about the “actual” release.
The lead single release reveals a lot of why…
There’s no doubt that Love You, It’s Cool is a beautiful record; it swoons and dips and shimmers with rhythmic mirages. It’s got tunes and propulsion and on bassier tracks like Cool Light it’s full of a romantic dancefloor sensibility that suggests the band took their remix album very much to heart.
There’s no doubting that this is a very different record to Red Bloom Of The Boom, though; while that’s no bad thing, where that immersively challenged listeners, this paints what ultimately boils down to a pastiche. The pounding beneath clouds of synth is reminiscent of some British bands like Doves and despite a veneer of distortion there’s only a few steps to take to push this record firmly into eighties revivalism.
In particular the romantic swooning of Sinful Nature is, in places, so close a reference to The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now in places that Morrisey’s lawyer must be due a call.
Add to this the sudden revelation that Jon Philpot vocally resembles Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys to a degree I hadn’t previously realised (no bad thing but a distracting observation in a record wearing its influences so proudly) and I Love You, It’s Cool starts to break more into constituent parts than the overcoat of static can hold together.
A fan of indie mysticism might try to posit that the title of the album itself announces its intent to reference; a super-fan work of love to things you find cool, certainly the Morissey/Sinful Nature correlation might suggest a knowing nod but even if that didn’t feel rather like grasping for cleverness then the actuality of the end product would remain.
I Love You… is a lovely record. I’m sure it will get played plenty this summer and soundtrack thousands of happy memories but its actual-speed version is indistinct, almost generic in a way that the ultra-slowed stream fails to mask and which doesn’t feel like genius from a band who’ve previously been so interesting.