Bear in Heaven I Love You, It's Cool(Dead Oceans/Hometapes) Buy it from Insound
With a tendency to steer the avant-garde as if it were a colloquial language, for a minute it seemed as if Bear in Heaven were ordained to be the kind of act that would continue to follow an audacious path. Their debut release, Red Bloom of the Boom, was imagined as a formless continuum of bare, uncompromising textural passages, existing somewhere between the narcotic, jazz-like compositions of Can and the barren, spellbinding stillness of post-Colour of Spring Talk Talk. While at times it felt like heavy lifting, they followed it with the more pop-oriented, yet equally dissenting Beast Rest Fourth Mouth. It was molded to fit a broader range without altogether dismissing a need to experiment; it was like witnessing a growing toddler develop a sturdier spine. Constantly proclaimed as one of indie’s most distinctive voices, the Brooklyn act have turned what once was indefinable into something that couldn’t be any more approachable. And all in one fell swoop.
Upon listening to the first single off I Love You, It’s Cool, it couldn’t be any clearer that Bear in Heaven are appeasing to the audience they’ve built with all the post-BRFM acclaim. Built around clarion-like synths, The Reflection of You is meant to project the ultimate full-size experience – scads of keyboard overlays, brazen, relentless percussion and a dance routine-worthy finale that awkwardly recalls Discothéque more than Blue Monday. Sinful Nature converts the quick-flash, strobe inducing sparks of Lovesick Teenagers with a sensation of titillating, sweat-breaking release. It fires all cylinders early on and never lets up, hauling an energy that, as calculated as they may be, never fails to feel alive. It feels very in the moment, just perfect for the urbane, hip collective to hit the dance clubs in a frenzy; pencil skirts and cut off shorts are encouraged.
As I Love You, It’s Cool drops hit after hit after hit with that unswerving, ever-prevalent celestial pulse, the suspicion arises that it stretches and moves through a haze of impressions too fast and ephemeral to remember. But Bear in Heaven have always been ones to look at the bigger picture instead of finely focusing on the smallest of details – once they’ve established a unifying sound, whether it’s krautrock, doom-laden psychedelia or new wave, there’s very little variation in song structure. And perhaps the disadvantage of choosing a more palpable stylistic choice exposes its flaws more greatly – the harmonic tribal chants and charged-up guitar crunch in Noon Moon alludes to a tamer Golden Skans, while Cool Light has that same twitchy, Pet Shop Boys evoking synth wash, except that the production technique is more muscular and that there’s a reliance on analogue instrumentation instead of a drum machine.
Bearing in mind that I Love You, It’s Cool bursts with vibrancy and tang, the same could not be said about all the off-putting circumstances behind the making of: the grueling, painstaking rewrites, the contemptuous (meant to be comical?) attitude towards today’s stream-obsessed music patrons, and the inevitable loss of yet another member (to which they honored the album title). It all presumably translates to a somewhat misdirected shot at making a singles album that shifts the need to experiment musically with a need to experiment with their marketing savvy. But the key unpardonable offense is that only a couple of the tracks really resonate, even with repeated spins. As incongruent exercise as it may be, Bear in Heaven had actually achieved the designation of thinking up a unique sound, an almost unattainable, yet infinitely desirable goal of any musician. Recoiling to a more moderate approach just leaves them without much at all.1 April, 2012 - 23:59 — Juan Edgardo Rodriguez