Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Album Review - Happy Particles - Under Sleeping Waves

Before attempting any review I always like to give the material in question a few listens over, let it float about my head and absorb it.  With an album clocking in at just over 45 minutes that can take a bit of time, so, as the modern man and caring husband I am, I decided to catch up on some housework whilst listening.  It was at this point I realised my mistake.  Despite being an ambient, soft shoe-gazing album, 'Under Sleeping Waves' is not background music.

There are some albums that demand your full attention and make you work for your reward, Radiohead's - 'Kid A' and Sigur Ros' -'Ágætis byrjun' both spring to mind here.  This is no bad thing, as in our fast paced world of iPod's and mp3's music can often become lost in amongst the back ground.

I digress somewhat, yet not without purpose.  Self-released on 25 December 2011, 'Under Sleeping Waves' is an album that plays great tribute to Scotland's love of the erethral, dreamy, shoe-gazing side of pop.  The influences are here, lead singer Steven Kane has a dream inducing voice that harks back to fleeting beauty of The Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser, the swooning melodies equivalent to Boards Of Canada and more recently the likes of Errors and Remember Remember.  The last band mentioned shouldn't come as a surprise as Happy Particles share some common members with Remember Remember.  There is at times even the sense that the layers of music, built painstakingly into an atmospheric triumph could explode into a full blown Mogwai-esqe sound, although the closest we get to that is towards the end of 'Come Home All Dead Ones'.

The album also plays by the maxim 'less is more'. Opener 'Aerials' breezes in with little more to it than Kane's soothing vocals and an eerie translucent distortion. Like a beckoning temptress dressed in nothing but a see-through negligee it's impossible to turn back now.

'Infinite Jet' comprises of the more 'traditional' song structure, a resounding melody, steady but not overpowering drum beat ply together to flesh out the sound.  As the track gathers pace there's an unexpected change of pace, rather than a jarring stop it feels as if the band are content to let their pace run out of steam, much like the hazy stages in awakening from a dream.

'Slowness' demonstrates further the post rock sounds further, with careful emphasis on providing just the right amount of sounds.  Not one beat, note, string or key is out of place or unnecessary here.  Indeed it's easy to imagine the band gathered round dissecting their sound to remove all the superfluous elements.  And what's left is just sublime.

There's an air of beauty that surrounds this full album, and right at the very heart of that is 'Offline Contact', a track that has the ability to melt your heart then wrap it's arms around you all within it's 4 minutes 33 seconds (Cage would be proud). 

Generally with albums, there's the usual highs and lows.  Yet it's practically impossible for me to fault this record.  As strong as it started the album draws to a close.  'Empty Circle' embodies the band's ability to build towards a heavenly effect; crashing cymbals, tinkling xylophones, epic strings and that ever present falsetto all intertwine and for those few fleeting moments it's as fine a collective sound as you'll ever have the pleasure to hear.

'Classes In Silence' has a prophetic name as the tracks is just as much about what isn't there as what is.  It's minimalist post rock at it's finest, and one imagines that years ago celebrated gentry may have gathered in large concert halls to appreciate music of this exact quality.  Happy Particles deliver many times over on the oft used, but not always justified, tag of 'classical rock'.

If I could compel you to do but one thing this month, it would be to buy this album. 'Under Sleeping Waves' will bring you immense joy, and if you let it, immerse you in swathes of gorgeous waves of unrivalled beauty.  Case in point is closer 'AM Sky (Bleary)'.  Like it's name sake, the track has the feel of light drifting over the landscape, each note on the xylophone represents the light touching each point with it's warmth.  The warmth of this epic album will, one suspects, live well on past the end of the day.

Buy Happy Particles - 'Under Sleeping Waves' for £5 on Bandcamp
(You can also stream the album in full)

Check out more of Happy Particles below:

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