Hey Mother Death - HIGHWAY

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2015-07-10

Paris via rural Nova Scotia duo Hey Mother Death return with their second album, Highway, a record which positively throbs with repressed violence and pouting, dangerous sensuality. This is an album that wants to hitch a ride with you, seduce you in a seedy motel and then make off with your wallet and car stereo. And you’ll still miss it when it’s gone.

The opening title cut is a throbbing, ruthlessly linier Moroder pulse over which synths strobe and guitars skid for four-and-a-half-minutes. “There’s no escape,” mutters Denma Peisinger blankly. Basically, it’s Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ relocated to a Mad Max hellscape, churning fatalistically through the fug of dust and oil fumes.

‘The Hills’, which follows, is The Doors’ ‘Riders on the Storm’ purged of everything but a stark beat and desolate cowboy guitar. Like Jim Morrison, Peisinger makes this excursion into the murderous night sound sexy and cool. Instead of warning you about a killer on the road, however, she’s like the faint mumble of the car radio, regurgitating banal snippets of drive-time chat. The overall effect is one of total alienation, before a landslide of white noise obliterates your field of vision and you crash.

The nine-minute ‘Bad Sex’ introduces dub and post-punk dynamics to the mix, hitting a sweet-spot between The Slits’ ‘Newtown’ and Grace Jones’ cover of ‘Nightclubbing’. As the track lopes relentlessly forward, glacial slabs of synth drift while Pink Floyd-esque guitars pick out blue notes which warp and echo within the dub eddies.

Eventually, everything fades to nothing but tape hum and a feeble click-track. It’s a masterful production.

The closing ‘Snake Power’ is more of a space-blues jam, albeit one which, strangely for this release, seems to lack direction. The organ and guitar sound improvised, as if the duo just wanted to explore what they could do in the studio. Nowt wrong with that, and the gently swaying, rum ‘n’ acid result is nicely Lynchian in its unease.

Overall, Highway doesn’t quite fulfil its early promise of being a horror movie road trip soundtrack. Instead, it wanders off into some interesting places. A longer release made with tighter focus would be very welcome indeed.  

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