MP3 Himalayas - Numbers Are Against Us
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5 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Shoegaze, METAL/PUNK: Post-Punk
Himalayas new mini-album, Numbers Are Against Us, is a sixteen-minute document of creativity put into the context of a rock 'n' roll record. That is not to say that the disc is difficult to listen to. While many people confuse the notion of creativity with that of difficulty, a creative product is an enjoyable experience when correctly done. This is the case with Numbers as well as any Himalayas show. The band (Josh Doyle on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jef Hill on bass and vocals, Travis Stewart on lead guitar, and Jason Hill on drums) is a tight unit live.
The band has taken to calling the five-song disc a "mini-album," a move inspired by the Pixies' debut effort. Generally this is regarded as EP length. However, "EP" comes with certain connotations (feel free to imagine a young punk band with very few songs). Himalayas, on the other hand, have recorded a large amount of material. Numbers Are Against Us is the result of more than a year of studio work at Jon Pluskota's Alchemy Sound in Carterville. Some songs were scrapped because of new arrangements; others were set aside for contextual reasons.
"I've always been a fan of the listening experience. That's why I collect music," bassist Jef tells Nightlife. "I felt like when we got down to those five that it made a good listening experience."
The opener, "Astral Physics," is the most upbeat on the disc, and is quick to highlight Travis Stewart's guitar work, the most prominent, and probably most important, element of the record. Josh Doyle's vocals enter at the 1:15 mark: "Don't expect me to wrestle your dead body/From an angry sea that gave you fair warning." Jef doubles this the second time around with a screamed backing vocal. The track is a straightahead rock song, ending in a short swell of feedback.
This leads abruptly into the steady-yet-subtle rhythm of "Lo-Life." Mumbled vocals from Doyle sit nicely on layers of muted arpeggio guitar treated with a bit of delay. The drums drop out to highlight a bridge of interweaving lead bass and guitar parts very much indebted to Sonic Youth (Stewart is certainly a student of Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo). The tones are very crisp here, heavy without becoming indiscernible.
This may sound strange, but the best description of the recording quality of the disc is that it is "clean." This should not take away from the power of the instruments, though-- "Lo-Life" explodes at the end. Layers of interweaving lead guitars cease to overpower a whispered vocal, but still maintain enough power to call the song's last minute intense.
"Season in Hell" begins with quiet guitar delay and electronic knob-turning. A lightly picked guitar and bass begins, and immediately this track feels different than the first two. An almost indecipherable vocal from Doyle fits somewhere in the sonic space the band creates. That space seems more important than the vocal. However, the lyrics that can be understood make reference to Modest Mouse, Jeff Tweedy, and Arthur Rimbaud. How can anyone go wrong with that? While the track dissolves into feedback-induced chaos, Doyle speaks, rather than sings, "I can't wait."
"Smear Campaign" starts out with a clock-like drum part and another lead guitar/lead bass section (this, along with chorded bass parts, is a common occurrence in Himalaya songs). The mood is dark: think Interpol, or better yet, Joy Division. The lyrics reflect that mood: "Life is pulling me underneath that car/I left two pints of blood on the pavement." The track erupts into a guitar-heavy middle section, layered like a British Sea Power record with the tone of Wire. The outro seems like a separate song. The two vocalists sing call-and-response vocals (and later yell them): "Take him home/Let him die." This section boasts more great guitar work from Travis.
"Hospital" immediately reminds this writer of a David Bowie tune. However, that is probably only because of the falsetto "ooh" at the beginning. In reality, this would be a more post-punk version of Bowie. "Don't worry honey/I ain't got no plans" is a strangely terrifying line, later reinforced with "It takes a lot/But a lot you don't got."
This track is probably Doyle's best vocal performance. It's subtle when it needs to be and powerful when the instrumentation calls for it. His voice fits the material well, but it's hard to imagine it on anything else. In general, it seems that the band fits together perfectly. The record reflects that without taking the band too far from a live setting. While Numbers Are Against Us is certainly more layered, these layers only serve to expand upon what the structure of the songs already conveyed. The arrangements also replace the human connection of a live performance, again without overstepping the boundaries of what can be accomplished at a show.
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