Review Summary: A droopy haze inviting you into something-or-another.
Combining elements of slow-core, shoegaze, lo-fi, and emo, Horse Jumper of Love is a band that is as enigmatic as their name suggests. Having a sound that can best be described as droopy, the band trudges along with small snippets of musings on life that can be anywhere from reflections on personal doubt to what appears to be a damnation of the current state of our country’s climate. On So Divine
they can go from lyrics such as “I spilt yogurt on the plants outside / And the dishwasher goes infinitely backwards” (Volcano) and immediately follow it with a song where the only lyrics are “All the cops burst into tears of joy / When it’s announced we’re in a police state” (Cops). Delivered with a depressing earnestness, both songs and sets of lyrics somehow manage to fit not just coherently into a single album, but also as back-to-back tracks. At the same time they don’t fit into any sort of meta-commentary that the hazy world that So Divine
may attempt to create. They are ideas that are shared quickly and may just as easily be missed, emerging into the foreground and just as quickly retreating into that foggy distance. The opening duo of “Airport” and “Volcano” quickly set this tone, with the former itself being particularly strong. The opening track slowly builds from frontman Dimitri Giannopoulos singing about “feeling invisible with his clothes off” with a driving guitar rhythm that slowly builds and turns into an ending of distorted guitars and steady drums, continuing to grow until its abrupt ending, making the listener question whether the soundscape was even there in the first place.
In another set of contradictions, So Divine
manages to create an incredibly intimate setting that is delivered from the aforementioned distance of a man wanting to share his thoughts, all the while hoping that no one is listening. It is clearly a personal album, with only frontman Dimitri Giannopoulos likely knowing the meaning of his own lyrics as he delivers them in his oddly soothing cadence. The lo-fi stylings also help create this feeling of intimacy, with many songs, such as lead single “Poison”, being mainly simple strums of guitar and basic drum beats - but just as you begin to think the haze has begun to clear and you can see clearly into what the band wants you to see and hear, a wall of sound arises that shows that, despite what you were beginning to think, you may not actually be welcome into this little world they have created. The guitar begins to explode, the drums fight back, all raising into a cacophony of shoegaze inspired climax, before retreating once again. The haze returns, the dream-state surrounds you, and you again have no idea what the hell is going on, but continue to enjoy it. This can make So Divine
quite enticing, but can also serve to frustrate when it's not quite clear whether the music serves any sort of purpose.
Album highlight “Ur Real Life” is the culmination of the album, with the lows of the song being among the lowest of the album, but the highs clearly being the highest, including a section with shouted lyrics and an almost bluesy guitar line coming in and out of distortion, with the line “I am not going anywhere” being delivered at varying intensities. It is the best example of the band’s combination of genres that, on paper, may appear to contradict each other. It also leads into what would could be a completely stunning ending trio of tracks. “John Song” contains perhaps the most confusing lyrics on the album, all while managing to sound romantic, with a simple guitar line and Giannopoulos’s layered vocals leading into an outro that takes clear inspiration from My Bloody Valentine. “Stray Dog” sounds like an attempt at a slow-core folk song, along with the most clear-cut and easy to follow story-like lyrics of the album. “Nature” carries on the blues theme from “Ur Real Life” and would end the album with an almost perfect lyrical excerpt to sum up the whole of the album: “It was too visceral I don’t know / If you’ll ever see it clearly". This couplet could be used as the basic mantra of Horse Jumper of Love.
Unfortunately, this is not where “So Divine” ends. “Heaven” is a track of dissonant lo-fi noises that seems to be an attempt at trying to make a more clear-cut ending when there doesn’t need to be one. Horse Jumper of Love includes a few of these instrumental transitionary tracks and each one of them is just as unnecessary as the one that precedes it. With the exception of “Cops”, tracks like “Aliens” and “Twist Cone” only serve to create a forced distance for the listener, as opposed to the one that was created naturally throughout the ambiance of the entire album. Fortunately and unfortunately, the album is quite short, clocking in at less than thirty minutes, meaning that these interludes are not too disruptive to the overall listening experience, but also leaving the feeling that there is wasted space on an already limited runtime. However, even with these clunky missteps, Horse Jumper of Love have managed to create an album that invites the listener in for a pleasing journey, although hell if anyone knows where that journey actually leads to.