Released: July 2014
It must be pretty tough trying to impress people when you’ve been unfairly tagged with the term ‘shoegaze’, and London band The High Wire will know that pain more than most. Acts of recent years that have tried to emulate the introverted genre that preceded the onslaught of lad rock have flown by leaving little imprint on the music landscape, suggesting that such a unique sound might be best left in the past. This makes potential preconceptions about The High Wire doubly unjust; as though their airy octave-spanning vocals drowned in layers of sound might vaguely recall the abstract indie music of the late ‘80s and ‘90s, the next My Bloody Valentine this band is not, and on the new album, Found in Honey, it doesn’t really sound like they ever wanted to be.
In its instrumentation the record draws more from contemporary R&B and old school rap than any guitar based sub-genre. The simple drum beats and basslines effortlessly drive a large chunk of the tracks forwards whilst the synth adds an urban-tinged edge to proceedings, the electronic strings of 20,000 Streets placing the listener in 1980s Brooklyn or thereabouts. Vocally the influences of British indie rock is more prevalent, the clash of sounds from opposite shores of the pacific proving to be effective on toe tapper LNOE and the dreamy Angelspeech, which very much lives up to its name by functioning as a celestial beat-driven love ballad thanks to the airy vocals of singers Alexia Hagen and Tim Crompton.
Texture is a popular area of study amongst this Anglo-Canadian trio, with tracks such as The Thames & the Tide and Under a Spell beginning as simplistic swinging ditties and moving on to become something completely different altogether. Electronic percussion, swooning vocal duets and layer upon layer of keyboard noise climb on top of each other to form a tower of melody: a tower structurally unsound and ramshackle but rousingly so. With crisp production giving the album a bit of extra polish and helping to define and embellish each sonic layer this collection of cross-genre compositions celebrates a range of sounds and influences whilst staying consistent and true to the characteristics of The High Wire as a band.
It’s probably fair to say that the record is notably top-heavy; few tracks in its final third particularly resonate in the memory and the middle section is at times lacking in pace. Sometimes the listener is found thirsty for some kind of climax only to realise by the end of its duration that Found in Honey peaks about three or four songs in. That’s not a huge issue, there’s still plenty to sink the teeth into as the record progresses, and its soft yet powerful tones prove it to be an intriguing LP from start to finish, even if the exciting numbers are all at the front of the queue.
Finding themselves somewhere between Chvrches, Gorillaz and Passion Pit, The High Wire are on to something. They’re not really ‘shoegaze’, but some of the hallmarks of MBV and co. are definitely present, fusing with a variety of other pop sounds to conceive a work of innovation that excites with its harsh electronic beats as much as it sooths with its velvety vocals. Further proof that the guitar and the drum pad can, and should, coexist.