Friday, July 11, 2008

Heavy Water Experiments - Heavy Water Experiments

As some of you may know, I’ve sat in anticipation for this disc for the better part of six months. I loved Imogene’s last album and when I heard samples of the new stuff floating around cyberspace, I knew something magical was about to happen. After changing their name from Imogene to the more apt Heavy Water Experiments, the boys released a self titled album, chockfull of music that invokes memories of those days in the ‘70’s when you’d have a group of friends over for some fondue frivolity. It’s similar to the Imogene stuff, but miles of musical growth by the creative tandem of multi-instrumentalist, David Melbye, and drummer/percussionist, Roberto Salguero, have been traveled between albums. The band’s sound has matured as they’ve brought a sense of patience to the songwriting. The songs seem to have grown more organically as there’s more space between the droning bass notes, which allows the shimmering acoustic guitars, ambient keyboard passages, and conscious drum work to come to life. Heavy Water Experiments is a beautifully layered slab of bubbling emotion that, in contrast to Imogene, breathes.

Heavy Water Experiments get things started by kicking “Goldenthroat” off with a bit of an acoustic guitar melody before slapping the listener in the face with a wave of distorted bass. Melbye’s vocals sooth through the verse as Salguero plods along, and as we arrive to the chorus, the vocals melt us with it’s melody. Being that there’s no traditional guitarist in the band, Melbye approaches the role by utilizing a flurry of bass tones and notes to achieve the same end. Initially, I thought the solos being performed were that of a fuzzed out six string, and it wasn’t until I closed my eyes and followed the bass lines through the song that I realized what was going on. Note Salguero’s approach, as he adds the perfect amount of texture with the drums, in that, he doesn’t overplay anything and adds accents to tastefully enhance the song.

Getting away from the heavy drone of sound, Heavy Water Experiments employ acoustic guitars for a more uplifting feel. The acoustics are the driving force behind tracks like “Anodyne” and “Dementia,” enriching the textures and melodies of the tunes. These tracks are damn near peppy in comparison to the rest of the album, and add a wonderful contrast of lightness. I don’t see why either one of these songs couldn’t be on the radio. They’re filled with remarkable melody, they’re soothing, not overbearing, and quite memorable. Hell, I’ve been humming “Dementia” for the past day. Racer . . . how are the plans for the radio station coming? (If he tells me that we have a fully operational battle station . . . I’m gonna’ have to hurt him.) Anyway, once we have the radio station up and running, these tracks will be in heavy rotation, that’s all there is to it.

“Clairvoyance” features a distorted bass attack to open the tune, then drops into a dreamy verse before exploding again at the chorus. Great dynamics throughout the album, but especially on this tune. David Melbye flirts with disaster, but pulls off some outstanding musical acrobatics within the confines and structure of the song. Check out the solo on this one and get blown away. Then hang around for the flurry of notes as the song begins it’s outro . . . and get blown away again. One of the things that’s always frustrated me with “progressive” music is that, far too often, the musicians feel the need to play a million notes in a measure just because they have the God given ability to do so. This barrage of sound, or “noodling,” rarely, if ever, enhances a song. Generally, it sounds like a child screaming for my attention, then throwing their toys at my head if I choose to ignore them. In the case of “Clairvoyance,” the screaming child is replaced with an articulate adolescent with something relevant to say. That, my friends, is refreshing.

HWE take us to the middle east with the instrumental, “Octavian.” Hop aboard your flying carpet and soar through the open air bazaars of ancient Baghdad. Dig how this one starts off with the acoustic guitars working with the polyrhythmic drumming, and then just opens up from there, taking the listener to foreign lands and cultures. “Conflagration Song” opens with a fuzzed out bass groove that, in conjunction with the straight forward drumming, creates a mesmerizing ditty. Once we get to the break and Melbye breaks into another fabulous solo, listen to the textures that he’s playing over. It’s these moments that make me happy I have ears. This tune also features guest vocalist, Erinn Williamson, who’s seductive voice adds one more layer to an already multi-layered opus. “Book Colored Blue” is a tripped out night in a opium den. Musical notes dance through the air like smoke from a hookah pipe. Swirling all around us as we listen to the minstrels find their groove and never let go. The polyrhythmic drums touch our more primal being, as the vocals play tricks with our minds.

Heavy Water Experiments is the most musically daring disc to come from the Melbye/Salguero collective. Full of heavy, psychedelic groove, infectious melodies, and extended stoner jams, this is the kind of music that you can’t listen to just once. Through all of these musical styles, they’ve still made the music accessible to the masses. By that, I don’t mean that you’ll be hearing this on your local radio station or in the grocery store, but you should. They’ve been able to neatly mix all of these musical elements into a core group of songs that will have you floating through a dream one minute, on your feet and dancing the next. Heavy Water Experiments was one of my eagerly anticipated albums for 2008, and I can honestly say that it’s lived to my own built up hype. Hell, it surpassed it. - Pope JTE

1 comment:

Jeff said...

These guys sound really good. I actually got in contact with them the other day and was able to get a copy of this CD to review. I'm pretty excited to hear it.

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