Review Summary: [bleep] here, [bloop] [chrrrrr] hereUntogether
is a far cry from “chillwave.” This deeper, more finely cut album folds its arms and sits on it, more like Kid A
than [Something from 2011]
, and more into detachment and technological alienation than hanging at the beach. Let’s not extend the analogy any further – you were all there, and we should have always known this wasn’t a trend
band. Blooming Summer
wasn’t that record, and Blue Hawaii certainly wasn’t built for the summer. As a band, they seemed to get the genre’s situation more than anyone else; chillwave dampened a fertile season, made us celebrate the beach and the ocean while flattening out the party to its basest (and often totally fun) form. What Blue Hawaii did was divorce themselves from the party. When she could have been jamming, Standell-Preston was writing break-up songs about her lover’s body around another woman. It was a good starting point, to have Blooming Summer
break-away, to release something pent up, and while Untogether
is almost unrecognisable from a song as heart-breaking as “Blue Gowns,” it’s another record with more than just a foundation.
Nothing on Untogether
is as visceral as Standell-Preston asking “how stupid can you get” as her ex thrusts into someone else, but the detachment that sets in on it is something to behold. On “Sierra Lift” she retools her voice as an instrument, letting it skip like a stuttering radio frequency. The song’s focal lyric, “come and lift me out of here,” is an unrelenting plea, but one she cuts up and changes – it gets intoned like a search party until everything falls down, and we hear it fade (“here, here…” she leaves as a trail, without modulation). Instead of lamenting someone it lost, Untogether
feels around for something, anything, asking mysterious questions and speaking to unknown properties. It’s an obscured record, one that has Standell-Preston misted up on high and us, the listener, close-up and blinded by the foreground. It’s almost as if Untogether
wills us to ask questions.
And it’s not that Untogether
is alien; there’s a difference between a people-less world and one with people on the other side. The “In Two” single skips because of someone, and pulses, obsessed with its beating heart. This is a beat-orientated record, one that even treats Standell-Preston’s elegiac voice like it’s travelling through. The first part of “In Two” ends with her voice being controlled and again, retooled, there simply to piece together the fragments of the song’s second part. Untogether
takes us on board with it, like an interpersonal journey rather than an intimate song cycle of confession. This is what happens when you take the one thing that matters most to you and let it just bleed out.
cked up, of course, but I like that Blue Hawaii will never really be party music. This record is closer than they got the first time, but it carries an intensity I wouldn’t want to share with anyone – we could dance to “Sweet Tooth,” I guess, but it sounds sinister, the beat dropping with resistance and Standell-Preston’s chants sounding like she’s freeing herself of something. Untogether
may be a textual record, like the ones we’d usually be happy to wave away the intricacies of and just get down to, but there’s still something in this band’s music that squirms with doubt. Blooming Summer
didn’t know what it was, a record for the sun or the end of something important, and there’s a sense this record, glitching and malfunctioning in every song, doesn’t either. Untogether
is cold music reminding us that there’s something for us out there.