Hypomanie - _Calm Down, You Weren't Set on Fire_
(Valse Sinistre, 2012)
by: Chaim Drishner (8 out of 10)
I wasn't familiar with shoegaze until some years ago; I mean, I was familiar with the style -- being into punk, post-punk and new wave even before I had been introduced to heavy metal -- I just didn't know this style of rock was dubbed as such. Later on, I even read an explanation of the reason why this style is called the way it is, which sounded extremely stupid: calling a music style after the posture some of the style's originators embraced during live shows, which was basically staring at one's shoes (gazing) while playing the guitars, was really beyond my comprehension.

But the style is unique, shoegazing or not; unique and beautiful, and it mainly involves high pitched weeping guitars and a basic rhythm section, with a larger-than-life attitude towards music and an inherent melancholy dripping from every riff and every chord. When shoegaze is done right, it may be the most beautiful, saddest music in existence. Think of The Angelic Process, Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. Think of Klimt 1918, or Hypomanie, for that matter. A language completely of its own; sun-drenched, soul-searing emotional mystique, wrist-slicing melancholy like no other, and in the end: almost an otherworldly experience.

If one had to sum up in a word what style embodies emotion in music, shoegaze would probably be that word, and Hypomanie is this emotional roller-coaster's most obvious representative nowadays. I know you all are tough guys and everything, but this music can make you whimper; it can make one weep like a child, given the right circumstances. Its alleged uplifting, elating qualities all serve to bring you down, and crush you under a wave of pain.

Hypomanie's _Calm Down, You Weren't Set on Fire_ is this Dutch band's crest of evolution, from its black metal days, through its blackgaze era to the previous and current albums, that are almost pure shoegaze artistry; as pure as they are instrumental.

I'm not sure what added values does _Calm Down, You Weren't Set on Fire_ bring to the table, in relation to the band's previous, highly acclaimed album _A City in Mono_, which was a superb piece of beauty and melancholy. Truth be told, I couldn't find any real evolution here compared to the aforementioned _A City in Mono_, but beyond comparisons and relative musical concerns, in an absolute view of _Calm Down, You Weren't Set on Fire_, this album is a quality product. The music here stands alone and holds water, not because it is instrumental, but despite that fact; a purely instrumental album that makes you forget the fact a vocalist is absent.

Hypomanie's music makes you oblivious of the fact the sole member here lets only his high-pitched (constantly in a state of tremolo-picking it seems), weeping guitars, his rhythm section and his excellent song writing abilities to speak and voice this collective of beautiful poems, the collective that comprises this magnificent, gentle, humane little album. This is shoegaze galore!

Contact: http://www.valsesinistre.com/

(article published 11/27/2012)


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