Review Summary: The Portland math-rock trio's smooth and subtle sophomore EP is short, sweet, and promising.
Honeybender, hailing from the scenic Portland, Oregon, specialize in purveying relaxing, beautiful music that is equally at home with fans of math rock as it is with fans of easy listening. Dense, twinkling guitar arrangements shimmer on top of syncopated beats, yet always remain flow-y and accessible. On their second EP with Giant House Records, the band gently kicks things up a notch, elevating everything that was good about their first EP to an even higher place. And for the bands second release after signing to a label, there is a word that comes to mind consistently when listening to this EP: promise.
Super Chill Surf Vibes is a perfectly promising EP. It's consistent, it's beautiful, and can easily find it's way into your memory banks with its sunny disposition and boatload of catchy riffs. "Googling Strangers" is the perfect opening statement, showing off the rich textures of their guitar work and vastly improved production. "THOUGHT FORM ENERGY GHOST" is a more pensive take on the same flavor, with some really cool stop-go rhythm changes.
The pleasurable cruise that it is though, it's also one that is very short. Granted, this is an EP, so the short play time shouldn't surprise me or anyone else. But technically, the majority of the music isn't new, with three of the tracks having surfaced on their previous EP or as singles. To their credit, their appearances here sound better than ever, ringing out with more clarity and detail than ever before, but with the first two tracks sounding more polished than ever, it would have been nice to hear more new material.
The dual "San Junipero" arrangements show previously obscured points of view on the song (which appeared on their White Bear EP last year) and pierce your heart like a summer breeze carving it's way through a canyon on it's way to a heady desert EDM festival. It's a gorgeous change of pace, but the second version, the A.E.N.E.A.S. remix, defies belief in the grand scheme of things.
Hopefully this slight segue is intentional, and can be directed towards the release of a full length album at some point in the near future. Because again, what this band shows consistently is promise: the closing track here is a demo called "You Always Catch Me When I'm Making Spaceship Noises" is a perfect example. Despite some very small intonation issues and the radically different mix than the rest of the music, there is a certain charm that persists, and you still find yourself swaying or surfing through whatever leisurely activity you were involved with without much concern.
Honeybender is poised to take on the scene in a big way; not by storm, but by a slow, relaxing rise of the tide.