If Jon Philpot, Jason Nazary, Adam Wills are reading this, hopefully they will not be offended when their band, Bear in Heaven, is being compared to New Order and Pet Shop Boys. While there are similarities in terms of musical styles, the comparisons are more with respect to their innovative and forward-looking approaches, which have successfully merged different musical eras, genres, and styles.
For New Order and Pet Shop Boys, they carved out niches at a time when disco was fading, punk was on the down swing, and the introduction of new technologies and instruments saw pop and rock being transformed. But instead of following trends, they bridged the divide. New Order and The Pet Shop Boys embraced the synthesizer and keyboards, integrating them into their music. They adopted the disco and pop sounds of the era and combined them with the post-punk and art rock prevalent in the UK during the mid-70s. As a result, they were able to create anthemic songs as well as those that were captivating and poignant. Their approach paved new paths for many bands to follow them and, in the vast majority of cases, they have outlived them despite approaching nearly fourth decades in the business.
Bear in Heaven, likewise, is a forerunner. In more than a decade as a band, they were experimenting with synth-pop, electronic, krautrock, and dance long before more notable electronic-synth acts like Phantogram and Grimes (who are all fantastic musicians). They were building on what New Order and The Pet Shop Boys had established, but taking it more in a dreamy and almost psychedelic direction. The result – music that created spatial, sonic landscapes that you could get lost in. And like many of their predecessors, their music is shrouded in layers – multiple layers – that can be extremely subtle, booming, or cascading throughout a song. On their fourth LP, Time Is Over One Day Old, Bear in Heaven have further refined their craft and created an album that may not be the most accessible but is extremely complex, challenging, yet brilliant.
And through their manipulation of different sounds, tones, textures, and layering, they are able to take the listener on an incredible ride, a roller coaster of feelings and taking through time, space, and inside one’s psyche. This is evident from the start on Time Is Over One Day Old, which begins with the intense, techno-inspired “Autumn”. The opening track has a buzzing, car-chasing feel. “Time Between” is melodic yet rapturous. It could be mistaken for a Richard Ashcroft tune but one played over top a slow, synth groove instead of a piano.
“If I Were to Lie”, a brooding electro-rock tune, has a subtle melody shift that Depeche Mode so perfected in their primes, where the listener is taken from a sense of calmness to feeling almost claustrophobic. “They Dream” is a 5 1/2 minute whirlwind of a song with multiple layers surging at the same time to create a lost and delirious feeling before settling into a stillness as the protagonist enters a new world and reality. “Memory Heart” adopts a similar approach, but less psychedelic and
On their more “leveled” tracks, like “The Sun and the Moon and the Stars”, “Memory Heart”, and “Way Off”, there is still a dreamy, hypnotic characteristic created by the slight booming chord that follows a mellow interlude. “Way Off”, in particular, is a stunning nod to ’80s synth pop for the first 3 1/2 minutes before becoming a slow lull for the last 1 1/2 minutes, sounding like something from inside a spaceship.
The finale, “You Don’t Need the World”, is the perfect ending. It wraps up the entire album from it’s message of independence and self-reliance to the gorgeous melodies of Philpot to the dreamy buzz of synths and keys in the background. It represents a smooth landing on his musical odyssey.
And a musical odyssey is Time Is Over One Day Old. It’s an album to be appreciated and enjoyed for its diversity and innovation. Other than the final track, Bear in Heaven does not abide by the Top-40 rules of formulated song structures and rousing and redundant choruses. Instead, they are carving out a niche for themselves and a genre all to themselves, much like New Order and Pet Shop Boys before them.
Time Is Over One Day Old is out on Tuesday, August 5, but you can pre-order it now at Bear In Heaven’s store or Dead Oceans/SC Distribution. You can also pre-order the album digitally on iTunes and Amazon and get the first two tracks, “Autumn” and “Time Between” now. Or, you can stream the entire album on NPR right now.
“Autumn” and the awesome video for “Time Between”, filmed over a month in New York during the wee hours, are included.
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