Bear in Heaven
After months of testing their limits and trusting their instincts, Bear in Heaven will emerge in April 2012 with I Love You, It's Cool, an album so vivid and visionary that it meets and even exceeds the confidence and calm its title suggests.
In 2010, Beast Rest Forth Mouth delighted listeners with the unexpected-futuristic rock music that didn't sound alien or bound to ostracize. Taking these songs from coast to coast and continent to continent, they learned that having fun with this music was copacetic, that they could delight a crowd while defying musical binaries. I Love You, It's Cool turns that realization into a peerless set of instant anthems.
Indeed, some of these songs are ready for the floor. In one a perfect guitar figure spirals through colossal drums and slabs of synthesizers. Elsewhere bliss booms in icy keyboards reflecting off a relentless throb. It's inescapable.
The intricacy and edge of Bear in Heaven's music is sharper than ever before. The programming is both complex and compelling, whether in the refracted rainbows or woven noisy matrices. Certainly, in places it feels like a hit, with hooks that instantly catch and bridges that curl a finger-lyrically, stylistically, temptingly-toward the dance floor. Bear In Heaven's mix of nostalgia and need is immediately relatable, too, bringing the band's exploratory sounds a little closer back to home before they exit in momentary space-rock ascendance, a readymade rock-club banger that erupts into a bold new direction.
I Love You, It's Cool is the first time Bear in Heaven has sounded so unapologetic and so evolved, so risky and so redeeming, so focused and so finessed. After years of restless exploration, this feels like a definitive arrival. I Love You, It's Cool is music written in the present tense but ready to speak to the future. The work is its own rarified reward.
Inspired by the purchase of a Lebanese synthesizer playing microtonal scales and lo-fi Eastern drum patterns, Rainbow Arabia began a escapist diversion from Danny and Tiffany Preston's day jobs. The demos they recorded, which were written and put to tape in a matter of a days, became their debut, The Basta. Barely existing for only a few months, the married couple were picked out of the ether by NYC sonic alchemists/kindred spirits Gang Gang Dance to support them on a cross-continental tour in 2008.
Once they got back (and to their surprise) they quickly found themselves a legitimate act with acclaim from PITCHFORK, THE FADER, XLR8R, NME, in addition to a word-of-mouth groundswell for their fresh, contemporary East meets West take on the Sublime Frequencies catalog that inspired them so much in the first place. With a penchant for global pop and psychedelic tribal beats, Rainbow Arabia caught ears across the pond releasing the "Omar K" seven-inch on UK's Merok Records (Crystal Castles, Teengirl Fantasy) leading to their first European tour in 2009.
Shortly after they released their follow-up digging deeper for
inspiration from worldly found sounds, the Los Angeles-based duo's follow-up EP, Kabukimono, expanded the color palette of their Middle Eastern-tinged "fourth world" pop with darker industrial dancehall and comfortably sitting alongside brighter Caribbean and African flavors.
Not interested in merely musical/cultural tourism, the Prestons shifted their focus outward in writing their first full-length album Boys And Diamonds. The inspiration that they found landed squarely in between future-thinking contemporary club music (techno, hip-hop, dubstep) and the organic globe-trekking
dance music of the last century (reggae, ragas, gamelan) they've been known to draw from. Add in an affection for the 80s synth-pop they grew up on and the gothic influences informing Tiffany's teenage years specifically (Love and Rockets, OMD, Christian Death), and you have an interesting recipe that is utterly unclassifiable as it is repeatedly listenable.
Electric Flower Group
Electric Flower Group had a most unlikely of beginnings. The first time they met, Josh Garza and Imaad Wasif were strangers in an elevator in London. Garza was carrying his kick drum and Wasif had his guitar in hand. They were at the BBC Studios to film performances on “Top of the Pops,” Garza with his band Secret Machines and Wasif, an established solo artist, was appearing as a guest musician with Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Eyeing one another suspiciously, the two maintained a curious silence, until the elevator came to a screeching halt, between floors.
Wasif began frantically hitting all the buttons to get the metal box moving, but the lights just flickered and the elevator remained eerily still and suspended. While waiting for the emergency operator to dispatch a technician, the two eventually set about jamming, Wasif, to ease his claustrophobia and Garza, ever-cool and stoic, to deal with the boredom, and, in his own words, to “just get this freak to calm down.”
Another three years passed before the two men randomly collided again, this time on a street corner in Los Angeles. They decided to head to Wasif’s rehearsal space. In a blast of inspiration from the cosmic weirdness of it all, they wrote “Circles,” the epic track off of their debut EP. With the pounding of blood, the rumbling of thunder, and the indelicate sensations delicately rendered; its finesse lies in the grafting on such libidinous roots of the more visceral stems of Electric Flower Group.
“Four16”, the lead track off the EP, is a roaring tower of power inspired by Kurt Cobain’s iconic performance of Leadbelly song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” during 1993’s MTV Unplugged In New York concert. A warped pop song about reincarnation, “Four16” refers to the minute mark (4:16) during
Cobain’s performance where we see him become possessed and as Wasif believes, “Kurt’s soul leaves his body.” The chorus “4:16, 4:16, Your god ain’t clean,” is a lyric for the ages. The strength and hooks of Wasif’s lyrical and melodic sense balance the primitive spacial quality of the music and Garza’s beats.
With their sophomore EP, entitled EP II, showcases the band expanding their sound beyond the rawness of their first EP to explore the dimensions of depth and width. “Eclipsed,” part loose metaphor, part nod to Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice’ and Big Star’s ‘September Gurls,’ casts a shadow of its own.
“Cocoon” is a markedly weirder track; the repetition of the mantra-like lyric “To see your love come shining” gives way by sudden schism into an unexpected extraterrestrial soundscape, veering between CAN-esque Mesmer beats and a guitar angularity akin to This Heat, all the while carrying the current of a song unlike either. EFG EP II is proof that music today can be cinematic and conceptual without the complications of over-instrumentation. Side two of the EP is dedicated to a cover of Scott Walker’s dark symphonic ode to S&M, “The Electrician.”
If the world ever catches up to them, we can then be sure that times really have changed, that the end is nigh, that the circle is unbroken. Electric Flower Group are on a journey through a modern kaleidoscope of rock 'n' roll, transcending mainstream influence and incorporating strong minimalist elements into their
modern psychedelic music. Electric Flower Group wakes the ghosts of rock's most daring days, while never following them.