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CD Feature/ High Places: "High Places"

img  Tobias

As easy to appreciate as it is hard to define, the music of High Places is a delirious paradox. While the duo's methodology of regarding the compositional process as an open-ended experiment places them firmly in the corner of the Avantgarde, their chirpy and charming cantability is marked by a heartwarming knack for upbeat melodies - on the surface, their tracks are pure pop songs which on closer inspection reveal minutely detailed rhythmical structures. And while their lyrics are purposely crafted without an overly personal context in mind, the naive cosmos spanned by Mary Pearson subconsciously taps into the listener's own nostalgic resonance, allowing dear memories to well up from the grim darkness of adulthood.

Bipolar results like these are to be expected when an experienced Bassoonist (Pearce) teams up with a less classical trained musician (Rob Barber). But biographies and Wikipedia entries, as always, aren't everything. In fact, their debut album, following in the wake of several 7inches and an unpoetically titled collection thereof, suggests that impulsive, unreflected listening will yield the strongest impact. Which means that you are, of course, free to dig out trivia about the band, such as their obsession with kitchen tools, their use and abuse of a now discontinued Roland sample pads, their delicious corpse“ technique of working on tracks, the way that Pearce started developing her high-pitched child-like vocal style and their embrace of MySpace and social networking sites. But it won't tell you anything about what the band are really about.

Which is to engage their audience in a poetic game of give and take. Pearce and Barber enjoy the idea of developing their pieces like moving emotional snapshots, concretising a single thought with the smallest amount of vocabulary imaginable to a maximum of effect. Through the use of verbal repetitions, they gentle coax the listener into a personal relationship with their lyrics, which shifts and changes with each cycle. Songs are deceivingly short and yet the album, despite its 'objective' brevity of a mere thirty minutes, conveys fragile feelings of infinity. Like short stories without an obvious beginning or end, they appear to exist outside the listener's perception, just as though one were only scanning into tiny fragments of a continuous filmstrip on a cosmic projector inside an out-of-control time-machine.

Some will undoubtedly take High Places for protagonists of a guided form of naivete, but just because they're not quoting Nietzsche doesn't mean their approach lacks in seriousness. "Millions of forces of physics and providence teamed up and brought us all here/ Waking and sleeping and yielding to gravity, pointless to measure in years“, Pearce whispers on the closing „From Stardust to Sentience“ and the music lifts the listener up from his seat and directly into the nightsky filled with millions of brightly illuminated stars. Fading into silence, it ends only inches before you can touch them. Maybe that is what makes it so hard to put your finger on this band: Just when you thought how to put their music into words, they're already on to something new.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: High Places
Homepage: Thrill Jockey Records

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