High Places – ‘High Places’

November 8, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Big Issue, #314, October 2008.

high-places

High Places
High Places
****

The music of High Places – the collective moniker for Brooklyn-based pair Mary Pearson and Rob Barber – is part of a rich vein of psychedelia coming out of America at present. Along with Animal Collective, Panda Bear and kindred Los Angeles spirits Lucky Dragons, the duo’s rattling, soft-lens sound worlds echo with a kind of freedom of form and spirit rarely found in contemporary music.

Utilising anything from guitars, banjos, bass and voice, to rattles, shakers, Kalimba and domestic objects, High Places’ self-titled debut glimmers with oddly fragmented and unfixed beauty. There are whispers of tropicalia here, inflections of 60s pop, but a kind of flourishing experimentation rules throughout. The crunching rhythmic pulse and fractured melodics of ‘Gold Coin’ and the shimmering ambience of ‘Papaya Year’ are wonderful moments, while the gently shuddering percussive patterns and lilting vocal of ‘From Stardust to Sentience’ make for a gorgeous, evocative finale.

Where so much experimental music can alienate with its utter unfamiliarity, what makes High Places so listenable is the pair’s sheer conciseness and economy. Pearson and Barber’s asymmetrical wanderings play out in the form of tightly rambling, pop-like vignettes.

Their seemingly disparate splinters of sound join to create recognisable but nonetheless irregular shapes.

Dan Rule

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