Total or partial paralysis of one side of the body. A phenomenon known as hemiplegia, and a curious title for a debut EP. It could have something to do with the effect that HAERTS’ music has. At the intersection of Beach House and Young Galaxy in terms of songcraft and elegiac vocals that veer into rallying cries, Hemiplegia encompasses this dichotomy and explores it in four tracks, each an experiment in the conflicting, spellbinding effect that dream pop exhibits when done well.
The hallmarks of shoegaze are present within Hemiplegia. Melodies that escalate into sonic supernovas, detached vocals, and the je ne sais quoi that allows each song to become an immersive experience; something to lose yourself within. Vocalist Nini Fabi camouflages her voice according to the occasion, ranging from nicotine-laced seductress to full-throated showstopper. Yet for all her prowess, Fabi refrains from venturing too deep down the rabbit hole that her voice could lure her into and the Aguilerian melisma that would shatter the trance, instead affecting a distant tone that only occasionally emerges from behind the satin curtain and steps into full emotive force. Nowhere is this more apparent than on highlight “Wings,” the undisputed standout and the most bombastic of the slow-burning fireballs on the EP, in which a single lyric becomes a multifaceted prism gleaming in every color of the rainbow.
Of course, dream pop is nothing without the melody. The synthesizer is the weapon of choice here, but the drums that pitter quietly and unwaveringly are the unsung heroes, percussion that keeps the sonic onslaught moving inexorably towards a resplendent conclusion.
Hemiplegia traverses the murky hinterland between encouraging and depressing with aplomb. The four tracks soar and swoon, ascending to impossibly high zeniths, and while none of them crash, there is a tinge of regret in each as they look down at the world they left behind. It is this iridescent sapphire tear amidst the glitter of grand soundscapes that endows each track with charisma. Despite the songs all sounding a bit similar, they change in shape and message according to various frames of mind. At times a smattering of shoegaze anthems and at others a soundtrack to pensive rumination, Hemiplegia displays a complexity on the emotional level that belies HAERTS’ relatively short existence. The ability to evoke so much in so little time should be celebrated. [B]