Review Summary: Hooverphonic finally top their Sophomore album, and they do so without having to go back and steal ideas.Hooverphonic
are two Trip-Hop bands with similar pasts. Both started out as basic Trip-Hop with above average female vocalists, and both bands slowly evolved away from that core sound and began incorporating other ideas into their music. Whereas Lunik slowly headed towards the greener pastures of acoustic Pop, Hooverphonic decided to take a huge turn into left field and create some very strange music. By their third album, The Magnificent tree
, it literally felt as if you were taking an auditory trip through the metaphorical rabbit hole. On that album they mixed Trip-Hop with a slight Indie/Shoegaze influence, as well as occasional cartoon-like refrains and vocals, odd melodies and sounds, and generally weird subject matter.
On this album they have backed off from the weirdest and most eccentric traits of that album, but have also fully embraced a homogenous mixture of Indie and Trip Hop that was only hinted at in the past. A good comparison for those who are aware of these bands would be to combine Slowdive
with Massive Attack
. The beats are still Trip Hop, but an actual drummer now performs them and will throw in the occasional fill to let you know he’s alive and not programmed. Also, they’ve included a real bass player and more guitar sounds into their mix of strange 60’s-influenced keyboards, and Electronica-based sounds. Whether you think that sounds good or not is open to interpretation, but in my opinion it has lead to their best release in their decade of existence.
The album starts off with a solid song called “Stranger” which immediately alleviated my fears that Hooverphonic may have delved farther into the weirdness of The Magnificent Tree
(just look at the album title and tell me it wasn’t possible). It’s a chill song with a mellow, organic Trip-Hop beat, washed over with various synth and piano melodies, as well as a repeating clean guitar melody. Of course, the song wouldn’t be complete without the vocals of Geike Arnaert that float effortlessly over the music. Overall this is a solid introductory song and a good indicator of the album as a whole.
One thing I’ve always liked about Hooverphonic is that their songs are always different from each other, each containing their own personality, and on this release things are no different. In addition to the chill Tip-Hop songs, we also have more Indie style songs such as “Expedition Impossible” with its fuzzy bass guitar sound, keyboards that share a lot in common with a band such as The Doors
, and a slightly more upbeat direction. Earlier I mentioned that they dropped a lot of their more weird elements from this album, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve suddenly gone conventional as the closing track, “Bohemian Laughter” demonstrates. It has an odd bass guitar line; spaced-out, almost formless keyboard sounds, and some truly strange spoken/sang parts from Geike, ending uncharacteristically with a distorted guitar riff and some chaotic drumming.
With this release Hooverphonic have finally topped the album widely considered to be their best, Blue Wonder Power Milk
, and they did it without having to simply rehash the ideas from that album. Their flawless mixture of Indie, Shoegaze, and Trip Hop, would appeal to fans of all three genres and would also probably even appeal to those who have enjoyed the latest albums by a band such as The Gathering
. Upon listening to this album you’ll realize that Hooverphonic has released an album that was able to retain their Trip Hop roots while still moving forward into their own unique sound… now if only Lunik had done the same thing.