opinion by BRENDAN FRANK
Up until now, Bear in Heaven have been pretty good at disguising how ambitious their music is. This is in part due to their restrained use of technology on their earliest releases, but it’s also because when they overtly tried to go big, they stumbled. Their last effort, 2012’s I Love You, It’s Cool, with its offhand title, dreadful cover art and overall garishness, would be off-putting had you not already familiarized yourself with their fantastic breakthrough album, 2009’s Beast Rest Forth Mouth. Time Is Over One Day Old, Bear in Heaven’s latest record and first with new drummer Jason Nazary, has a much greater sense of control. They skillfully building a world that feels habitable, and doesn’t forget to bring along some tunes.
I guess you could call it an unsurprising surprise. Bear In Heaven have proven capable of hitting the sweet spot with their deeply hybridized, vaguely proggy take on indie rock. Time Is Over One Day Old certainly sounds like a Bear In Heaven record, only a little more simplified, appropriating the precise yet expansive electro arrangements recently championed by MS MR, Washed Out, and especially Jagwar Ma. Happily, Time ditches the more-is-more approach of I Love You, It’s Cool, letting each of their ideas take up all of the space that they require. Things are a little more pinned down, thrumming with steady-handed efficiency.
No matter how you approach Time, its philosophical tilt is evident. Everything from the title, to the cover art, to the opening line possesses a cosmic flair. Tracks are laden with echo and reverb, and the lyrics likewise cover vast distances and weave in the occasional nod to nondeterminism. Frontman John Philpot pulls no punches with his opening words on the rollicking “Autumn” (“Silent romance/Guided by chance/Just like everything”), while Adam Willis and Nazary blend wheezy synths and a four-to-the-floor beat. It’s a party tune that unsettles as it nudges you to move your feet.On the other end of the spectrum is “The Sun And The Moon And The Stars”, a gossamer track that sends waiflike synths toe-to-toe with widely scoped lyrics: “We’re 30000 miles from the outside/And we’re never going back again”. Though much of the album follows a simmering verse/volcanic chorus format, Bear In Heaven have certainly injected more variety into their songs. On “Time Between”, the big moment comes in the form of a searing string bend; on “Memory Heart” is a slowly depressurizing synthesizer; on “Demon”, it’s a choir.
The record’s signature pop moment comes on “If I Were To Lie”, a middling tune that stands six feet tall in ten feet of water, relying too heavily on a repetitive hook that never quite sinks in. Likewise, closer “You Don’t Need The World” favours atmosphere over substance, with flimsy lyrics like “You don’t need the world to live another day/The world can bring you down in such a heavy way”, ending the album on something of a bum note.
But these dips are evened out by the peaks, specifically “Autumn” and the punchy, claustrophobic “Demon”. The greater accomplishment, however, is how resolutely Time corrects the slip-ups on I Love You, It’s Cool, which will likely now be relegated to a footnote in the band’s career. While Time isn’t a massive overhaul, Bear in Heaven tweaked where they needed to, and picked up a pretty neat trick along the way. The more you listen to these songs, the more they linger. B
tags / Bear in Heaven, Bear in Heaven Time is Over One Day Old, Brendan Frank, Featured
author / Pretty Much Amazing