You rarely hear the words avant-garde associated with pop music. Yet the eclectic and sometimes ear-wrenching sub-genre can be found in all corners of music, but perhaps most notably in jazz through classic artists like Ornette Coleman. In some ways avant-garde is simply a pretentious way of saying experimental. But the definition of the term is merely a push of the boundaries away from the norm. That, then, brings up the question what is the norm?
With the popularity of groups like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, what once was considered avant-garde and experimental is now becoming more and more commonplace for those more accepting than your typical Top 40 music appreciator. Following the lines of the two aforementioned groups is Bear In Heaven (See also the Bear In Heaven MySpace Page).
In Red Bloom Of The Boom, Bear In Heaven masters the evolution of sound. The early moments of “Werewolf” consists of pleasant, barely audible chords. When additional instrumentation enters 1/3 of the way through, it maintains the minimalistic nature found early on, with exception to select moments of tense crescendos which give the song an interesting and rewarding edge. The latter third of the song takes the tension at face value, adding to it the initial harmonies as well as vocals by Jon Philpot.
“Werewolf” is vastly different than the opening track, “Bag of Bags” which kicks off Red Bloom Of The Boom with double-timed percussion and unique whole note keys. Time is not of the essence here as all instruments bend it to their own needs, yet as a whole the song is cohesive. Reminiscent of Animal Collective, “Bag of Bags” introduces the album on a positively high note.
Bear In Heaven is not as frantic or eerie as Wolf Eyes’ Human Animal, nor is it as pop-centric as “Who Would Win A Rabbit” or “Turn Into Something”. There are relatively few elements of jazz as found throughout music by Grizzly Bear. But like its contemporaries, this beast is a welcome part of the pack, herd, or whatever the hell you call a group of uniquely individual but also somewhat like-minded avant-gardists.
This review was originally published October 3, 2007 on the old version of FensePost.
Bear In Heaven: Bag Of Bangs [mp3]
[audio:090620_bear_in_heaven_-_bag_of_bags.mp3|titles=Bag Of Bags|artists=Bear In Heaven]
HomeTapes [CD, 2007]
1. Bag Of Bags
2. Slow Gold
4. Arm’s Length
5. Fraternal Noon
6. Shining And Free
7. For Beauty