Friday, 22 April 2011
[ALBUM REVIEW] Hypomanie - A City in Mono
1. You Never Gazed at the Clouds
2. She Couldn't Find a Flower, But There was Snow
4. A City in Mono
5. A City in Stereo
The mysteriously dark and introspective Dutch shoegaze (and ex-black metal) outift Hypomanie is back again this time with their follow up to the début back in 2008, only this time they have, or rather Selwin has, undergone a complete stylistic change and appears to have a new, much more positive outlook on things. Gone are the days where he'd prefer to sing about all things dark and depressing, it appears these days the general atmosphere in the Hypomanie camp has taken a turn for the good with Selwin now penning wistful and nostalgic shoegaze bearing more than a slight nod to one of the genre's perfecter's, Slowdive.
If you've heard either of the two EPs previous to this release though, you will already know Hypomanie have been undergoing somewhat of a transformation or evolution the way I see it from average DSBM to the self titled EP while impressive, still heavily shackled with their roots to what we have now. A City in Mono only retains an ephemeral glimpse at Hypomanie's origins, for now their feet are firmly planted in thick shoegaze territory. Five songs and forty minutes of a huge wash of pulsating guitar surges and subtle drum work, all purely instrumental, which upon reflection was probably for the best as Selwin's vocals on previous works at times lets just say left a lot to be desired.
Straight from the off the album is absolutely dripping in Slowdive influence, you can hear it in everything from the riffing to the fantastic guitar breaks and the airy electronics which appear from time to time. One of the albums highlights is without doubt the opener “You Never Gazed at the Clouds” with its intense wall of distortion and the guitar break around the two minute mark which bears an uncanny resemblance to that of “I Saw the Sun”, giving that same sort of feeling you get when sitting by the coast and the sun breaks on the water and floods your head with nostalgia and that feeling you haven't got a care in the world. Following this up with some exquisite guitar work and more thick riffing and you've got something pretty special indeed. Consummate shoegazing bliss. The song kicks up a notch for the closing minute or two in an almost post-rock styled climax with a passing nod to the bands roots with the accelerated speed of the drumming and guitar, and slightly more conventional riffing style.
Some of the songs do tend to suffer from being repetitive, Alison-esque “She Couldn't Find a Flower, But There Was Snow” (which is guilty of having one of the worst song titles ever) drags a bit towards the end and might have been better cut in half, as is “A City in Mono” which after a strong start again wanes. But it's the albums long player, “A City in Stereo” which is my other main highlight of this release. Clocking in at almost ten and a half minutes, from it's delicate electronic introduction which carries its hypnotic resonance throughout the whole song which could have as easily been composed by God is an Astronaut through the chromatic and reflective guitar melodies which sound as fragile as life itself. Astonishingly beautiful and captivating and best likened to observing the eerie lull of a large cityscape in the dead of a clear winter night, awash with a hazy blur of ambers, reds and yellows.
There’s no doubt Slowdive are a huge influence on Selwin, and at times it does sound extremely similar, which believe me is no bad thing. Few bands have ever come close to capturing that ‘feeling’. Yes it is stretched a tad in the middle, but the sheer magnificence that bookends this album is pure genious. Dropping the vocals is the best thing Selwin has done to date, by transferring all the focus to the music itself it really allows the guitar work to shine. I would say this is the logical progression onwards from their EP’s, and leaps and bound ahead of the generic debut.