Release Date: Sep 23, 2008
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Electronic
It’s a placid experience, listening to Brooklyn duo High Places. This self-titled album, their official debut after the stopgap singles compilation 03/07-09/07, is another collection of Mary Pearson and Rob Barber’s soporific, often achingly sweet, songs. For a band that could so easily be tagged with the hackneyed "folktronica" tag, it’s a delight to hear them squeeze some fresh juice out of the genre.High Places is a wonderful example of a band that comes alive in a home studio, where willful indulgence is actively encouraged and a parade of mundane household objects spring into musical life.
Using samples, loops, found sounds, household appliances, and a highly developed sense of childlike joy and wonder, High Places create some magic on their debut full-length album. The duo of Mary Pearson and Robert Barber take a get-in-where-you-fit-in approach to their sound, splicing in elements of indie pop, electronica, world music, dub, and outer space kids music and ending up with a sound that isn't miles away from what fellow sonic adventurers like Panda Bear or El Guincho are doing, but retains more than enough individuality and invention to be totally unique and original. Credit Barber's amazing ability to weave bits and bobs of noise and sound into a blipping, jerky music that soothes the ears and makes your feet want to move.
Of all the bands that have found themselves championed by that mercurial power that is the Internet over the past couple years, High Places seem the least likely to fit into that strange land of hype. Their music tends to keep to itself. It doesn’t reach out so much as draw you in. And it lacks any quick and fleeting way to grab a listener, no wink-and-nod gimmicks to hook us.
In the new indie rock, instrumentation often takes the place of vocals as the point of focus. Mary Pearson and Rob Barber exemplify this trend as High Places. They’re like the Blow but inverted; in the Blow, Khaela Maricich’s cute songwriting is the point and the beats by Jona Bechtolt are pleasant and fit in well. In High Places, songwriting and singing do their best to stay out of the way of the backing track.