Bears on Parade‘s latest album – “Said My Fist To The Sky, Said My Hand to the Ground” – is an interesting listening experience … one I am glad to have received. Their particularly unique brand of lo-fi, shoegazing post-rock is deliciously dark and despondent … a late-night wall of melancholy expressed with noisy guitars that squeal and drone, cinematic Twin Peaks-esque synths, wonky melodian, vocal samples, and haunting, otherworldly vocals. Think of a male-vocals leading Cocteau Twins rather than Liz Fraser and you’ll get the gist … their’s is a slowed down, lo-fi shoegazing vibe … a wall-of-sound that can and does fill any space.
Don’t get me wrong … their melancholy takes a wee bit to get acclimatised to. It can appear unnaturally slow and lacklustre when the listener is not in the mood. But when they are … when they are receptive (usually late at night or after a hard day)… “Said My Fist To The Sky, Said My Hand to the Ground” can and does sound truly fab.
The vocals, in particular, take some getting used to … its as if they were recorded in another room … they have a distance to them that means they aren’t always crystal clear and can sound almost incoherent. But then this adds to the ethereal nature of the vocals, in my opinion, and gives the soundscapes presented a particular mystique.
A mystique that is accentuated with Bears On Parade‘s liberal use of the melodian on tracks such as “Hot Spring”. This gives the album a nautical feel … which, in turn, reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. Don’t ask me why … it’s a long story … I just associate the melodian with that novella.
It takes until the penultimate track – “Fists to the Sky” – for the band to let go … and when they do, oh boy, they do! The listener is slapped with a full-on face-melting shoegazing wall-of-sound … one that does calm down after a few minutes which, if I am honest, disappointed me and relieved me in almost equal measure. I am glad to say it picks back up … and is utterly relentless … in a good way!
The closing track – “My Mountain” – really does complete this album very eloquently … it is another downtempo, synth-based piece with vocal samples and more of the band’s trademark ethereal vocals. The introduction of the melodian to add to the wall-of-sound is inspired … it really balances out the sound and helps to add to the ambience of the track.
If I were to sum this album up … I would say that I enjoyed it but would want more noisy shoegazing pieces and less of the slower pieces. From the opening track – “Falling Trees” – through the 48 minutes of the album to the closing track – “My Mountain” – this is an intriguing listen. One that demands patience and a good set of headphones.