Bear In Heaven - Time is Over One Day Old

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2014-08-04

Bear in Heaven's fourth album is the Brooklyn trio’s most straightforward yet, often sidelining their previous penchant for Krautrock jamming and synthy oddness in favour of songs which, although occasionally still obscure and meandering, are noticeably tighter and punchier than much of their previous output.

It’s not all change, of course: first track ‘Autumn’ surges forward on a powerful bassline and relentless drums slathered with psychedelic molasses. It’s like Joy Division on magic mushrooms. ‘Time Between’, meanwhile, marries John Carpenter-style monolithic synth with echoing, shoegaze guitar.

This is all good, but BIH’s newfound directness may leave some long-term fans cold. A few songs here definitely seem to have been crafted with an eye on the area-rock market. Where previous albums balanced stone-cold synth-pop gems like ‘Lovesick Teenagers’ and ‘The Reflection of You’ with fuzzier, hairier numbers, BIH now seem prone to a palpable, and sometimes grating, lack of subtlety.

The chorus of ‘Time Between’, for example, is a hollow, bombastic intrusion into what is otherwise a great track. ‘The Sun and the Moon and the Stars’, meanwhile, is a straightforward and quite saccharine ballad dressed up in those regulation echoey effects. And ‘Memory Heart’ might have nifty ping-ponging synth in the background and a neat lyric (“Memory, you’re mean to me”) but it still sounds irritatingly like Simon & Garfunkel at their drippy worst.  

Elsewhere, the signs are much more encouraging. ‘If I Were to Lie’ is a close cousin of Fujiya & Miyagi’s stuttering, murky electro-psych. ‘They Dream’ begins with a thrilling barrage of spiralling, zooming synth sounds and inventive percussion. ‘Way Off’ is like a warped take on Japan’s faux-travelogue, aesthete pop, breaking into a work of exquisitely alienated avant-disco halfway through before collapsing into an extended ambient coda.

It all finally comes good on ‘Demon’, a pretty damn perfect concoction of arcade game noises, Can-style drumming, and cooing, ghostly female backing vocals – a genuinely new sound for BIN, but one which feels utterly theirs and reminds you that when this band is at their best, no one else is quite doing what they are. With this mix of aggressive drumming and art-pop otherness, BIN are capable of creating something unique.

The feeling I had when I first heard ‘Lovesick Teenagers’ comes back to me when I listen to ‘Demon’, that this is how 21st century synth-pop should be done. No imitating Yazoo or The Human League – take those elements, mix them with different, conflicting ones, and run with it all the way to the moon.

Unfortunately, Time is Over One Day Old is let down badly by its last two tracks. ‘Dissolve the Walls’ and ‘You Don’t Need the World’ are both stodgy, slow songs on an album already full of mid-paced numbers. This is a problem BIH have carried over from previous albums. Having seen them rock so furiously live, I still can’t quite understand why they frequently sounds so lethargic on record.

Anyways, there’s enough good stuff here to still keep BIH as a going concern. However, it feels like some sort of evolution is needed for next time around. Perhaps the band feel this too, but becoming the group of choice for hipsters who would openly love Coldplay if they weren’t so pathologically pretentious is definitely not the way to go. 

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