Music, Print, Reviews August 18, 2014

Album Review: Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old

by Matt Hutcheson

bear_in_heaven-3Formed in 2003, Bear in Heaven have been releasing contemplative, psychedelic synth music since before (and now quite a while after) such a sound stumbled its way into the zeitgeist. Up to this point the highlight of their career is probably 2009‘s Beast Rest Forth Mouth, a dark, spiraling collection of mind-bending synth-pop. With Time Is Only One Day Old, Bear in Heaven seek to improve their sound while also leading the listener down a stranger, more introspective path,  and it’s difficult to listen to this ten-song collection without thinking they have succeeded.

This is an album seemingly designed to deny catchphrases and avoid easy placement, remaining subtle and tightly paced throughout its length while never quite going where one expects.” Songs like “If I Were to Lie” and “Demon” are positively danceable, revealing the album’s roots in improvisation while also serving as stark musical counterpoint to the relatively anxious lyrics.

The idea of time is prevalent if only to force the narrative and the listener outside of it, as there is no central location or linear path to locate oneself on the album. Saying the songs ‘blend” may have negative connotations, but they certainly possess an ethereal, boundless quality that is far more conducive to start-to-end listening. This seems appropriate to an album so concerned with internal narrative and thought, illustrated by songs like “If I Were to Lie”, which at the beginning asks what Camus called the essential philosophical question, “Suicide or stay alive/you’re looking at the pieces”. This is not to say Time Is Over One Day Old is a difficult or depressing listen, but it does require the listener allow themselves to be enveloped, to give into the subtleties it has to offer.

Speaking to vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jon Philpot, I got the impression that the band is concerned foremost with offering a potentially transformative, encompassing experience for the listener. Asked about the inspiration for the album, Philpot said the album derives from personal and existential problems he and the band were facing during its making, stating “there was a lot of shifting and realization going on. It’s just life, it’s good and bad.” The album certainly reflects and explores this uncertainty but always reminds us, to the very end, that “I don’t need the world/you don’t need the world”.

The lyrical honesty and unflinching yet subtle relentlessness of the music makes what could have been a mildly interesting psych-synth album into a minor artistic triumph for Bear in Heaven, showing clear signs of a growing maturity and ability to form a more cohesive artistic statement than many of their peers. Philpot said near the end of our interview, “If I could give someone an epiphany, then man, I would say (Bear in Heaven) have succeeded”.


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