Edinburški trio (gitara, violončelo, bas, glas) rastapa Radiohead do homeopatskih, subatomskih razina i zato postaje intimniji od vaše podsvijesti. Jako lukavo.
The sadness of The Awkward Hello is deep-rooted, so much so that it is never shaken off even by the couple of times that the band let go into a fuller, driving crescendo. When ‘we are free’ rings out in the first track, it somehow sounds more like ‘there is nothing worth being free for’. That sort of resignation inhabits much of the album, sombre, simple guitar plucking backed by even more sombre, low cello melodies. Thankfully Hiva Oa do drag themselves up from their navel-gazing occasionally, beautiful as it is. Manic drums and distortion bring some anger and defiance to the end of “These Hands”, whose repeating line is ‘we fall apart’ – the first suggestion that these Scotsmen aren’t going down so quietly. By the time the gorgeous harmonies of ‘let it burn’ flicker around each other on the closing track, we are pleasantly uncertain whether the singer intends to consume himself in the flames as well or start afresh. The lighter, cleaner airs of the song’s second half perhaps suggest the latter.
Those vocal harmonies are one of the highlights of the album. The male/female harmonies in particular complement each other perfectly, her dulcet tones, accompanied by a crystalline glockenspiel bringing the note of hope to the opener that its lyrics so yearn for. In “The Minder” the two voices dance a wispy, insubstantial step that makes individual lines difficult to hear, until one voice gathers itself for a string of audible words. The interaction of the voices though, their shifting prominence and reluctance to fall in step with one another, speak unmistakably of love, resentment and entrapment, with few words necessary. It’s almost a shame that the harmonies don’t feature on every song, but when the male voice is left alone it reveals its versatility, an unexpected strength on “These Hands” and …
Hiva Oa are also wise to embellish their basic setup with other instruments from time to time. Glockenspiel, accordion (possibly), some unusual choices of percussion and a rich bass line on “Thunder” add variety amongst the bleakness. However, when the band goes more obviously electronic, the results are mixed. The feedback and oscillating, pitchshifting buzzes on “Mindful Of” are too far removed from the album’s normally organic, warmly lo-fi sound; the delayed, spacey vocals don’t help either. “Badger”, one of the tracks previewed on their recent EP, fares a lot better, its synths focused on melody with a much less jarring tone. Carried by one of the more confident vocal performances and relying heavily on acoustic drums for its exciting build-up it fits a lot better with the surrounding songs, and the second injection of pace and volume after “These Hands” is well timed.
A sunny, Pacific island seems a strange namesake for this band. But it is easy to imagine islands as lonely, introverted places, but at the same time quietly staunch, a solid outcrop surrounded by uncertainty, even if maybe The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss might be more suited to an Orkney than a Marquesas. Perhaps sunnier climes are on the way and, having delivered on the promise of Future Nostalgia For Sale, Hiva Oa can happily think of themselves as a bright new drop in the musical ocean.
- Matt Gilley for Fluid Radio
Future Nostalgia for sale (2012) streaming
Hiva Oa produce music with a fragile sense of melancholy, buried under a brooding darkness. Guitars, bass, cello, the odd piano and haunting vocals combine to create something unique and intensely evocative. Blending acoustic sounds with more experimental moments the band has created an EP and album that are distinct and immediately compelling. The beauty of Hiva Oa lies in the understated.
‘Future Nostalgia for sale’ is a precursor for the forthcoming debut album ‘The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss.’, which is pencilled in for release in May 2012.
‘Male and female vocals dovetail to a basic backing of guitar, bass and cello. From this starting pad, a more sensurround experience of glockenspiel and martial drums are thrown into a scratchily looped mix that swirls and sways its way into being.... Hiva Oa stick to the shadows, erupting into a rolling thunder before coming to a hush once more.’ - The List
‘It’s been a while since I heard a band for the first time and felt immediately obliged to write about them...This track certainly suggests a ton of potential, as it billows back and forth a brewing storm of droning hums and weathered strings amidst delicate vocals, which builds to a cathartic noisy cadence.’ - Sonic Reverie
‘Falling somewhere across dream pop, drone and shoegaze, new single Badger perfectly exemplifies what they’re all about.’ - The Tidal Wave of Indifference
‘To hear of them is to experience an adventurous, skewed take on poetic art rock with the resulting languorous melancholy inducing a near hypnotic state.’ - Bluesbunny Music Reviews
Edinburgh based alternative three piece Hiva Oa debut their four tracker EP on Mini 50 combining guitar, bass, cello, melancholic vocals and left field whimsical sensibilities as precursor to their incoming album ‘The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss’.
The EP swings from the moody looped vocal & cello experimentalism of opener ‘Badger’ to ‘Urban’ where gentle folk tinged vocals sit across lightly strummed acoustic guitar and plaintive heartfelt vocals drawn together with downright lovely cello and harmonica lines.
‘Ghosts’ continues the acoustic theme alongside light touch vocals and perhaps the most upbeat presence of the EP despite the supernatural subject matter.
Not afraid to mix things up the epic final track ‘Morning’ marries a dark subdued droning bass to introverted male vocals ‘I’m thinking…. I’m drinking’ and snatches of distant field recordings before switching structure entirely where rolling drums and cello announce a bandpassed female Portishead-vibe vocal retaliation with ‘I love this town, I never want to go….’. Screeching children playing provide further background as the male reprises ‘I think we shared too much this night…’ before the track angrily explodes into a sea of guitar feedback and drums….
Evocatively poignant, nostalgic and steeped in melancholia, this debut is a must for fans of moody male / female vocal and acoustic work that’s not afraid to explore the darker side of life. An interesting and unique debut – we look forward to the album!
If you’ve not already done so, you can download the EP from the mini50 records bandcamp page. It is available as “pay what you like” so please do check it out.
- Andy Gillham for Fluid Radio
The Good Ship (2011) streaming
You may, by chance, find renditions of these tracks at a Hiva Oa live show, of which Stephen and (sometimes) Hailey reside. But unless through specific request, or unless the right show comes along, I think we shall leave it at this.
Stephen & Hailey