Artist: His Name Is Alive Release Date:
records Running time:
(Bass, Guitar, Composer
Karen Oliver (Vocal/Guitars),
Melissa Elliott (Songs/Pencil Guitar
Jymn Auge (Guitar, Songs),
Damian Lang (Drums, Rainmaker
, Crashers, Bone),
(Vocal, songs) ~ had a solo album on Poptones label in 2001.
Mixed by Ivo Watts Russell
(This Mortal Coil
) and John Fryer
Mastered by Gus Shaw.
Sleeve by Vaughan Oliver
and Dominic Davies.
Recorded at Warren's House, Livonia, Detroit
Home Is In Your Head (HIIYH) is probably one of the more dissonant, incoherent albums I've ever heard from an established commercial label. It's much less a record & more like a menagerie of ‘acoustic fragments’ ~ a sort of musical scrapbook or disjointed imagined soundtrack. It is, by times, overtly melodramatic
, even precious. However, the vocals and guitar hook
s deliver sufficient intensity to encourage a second listen. Slowly, all the pop music elements lurking behind the curtains of theatricality
and art damage
emerge. A buried human element claws its way out of the initial smoke of experimentalism; subsequently the album suddenly gets far more interesting. You can almost picture each tune, encased in a dusty glass case, warbling away by itself, over & over ~ listening to the album is a bit like a stroll through some weird collector
’s dusty attic.
The bands’ first full LP, 'Livonia
' was recorded on a basement home studio four-track
, yet achieved remarkable depth considering Warren's sampling & Karen's vocals were the only elements keeping the songs grounded, almost everything else is swept away by Auge’s wall of noise
guitar fuzz. In the end, a set of fully distinct & traditionally structured three minute pop songs emerged from the gloom, buried in distortion and blurred with tape loops, as 4AD
bands are wont to do. With this second album, however, the band completely abandons the eight song, threes minute each architecture for a record.
Does it rock? Can I put it on at a party? Can I bug out to it?
Not as such. No, probably a bad idea, unless you wanted it to end. Well, yes actually, but less in the dance & more in the medical psychotic episode
Then what’s it good for?
Firstly, it's a great reading record, at low volume, on a rainy day - comic books or dense 19th c. novels, for some reason seem to go particularly well with the music. Also, for listening (loud), while driving
(alone, for long distances, at night, in the summertime, with all the windows rolled down, on winding country back roads). Or, for states of chemical knacker
, flat on your back, lying on the porch, looking at stars.
Since most of the songs overlap, run together, carry a theme and/or act as interlude
s, one either listens to the whole album straight through, or not at all. While it strays perilously close to ‘concept album
’- this would imply a unity which the record simply does not have. Disjunction
here, I would argue, may even be part of the point. The fact there’s a triptych
of tracks called Songs of Schizophrenia
is a big tip off to its overall atmposphere.
What’s it sound like though?
There are moments akin to a symphonic rehearsal
heard from the inside of a locked truck, dirges to be sung in hope of rain, campfire songs for ghost kids...there are snippets of imagined soundtrack
for slow motion
scenes...there are ticking clocks & neighbours’ answering machines heard faintly through walls. There are crunchy guitar solos and the occasional tortured scream which erupt, on occasion, mid-song. There are hypnotic acoustics and ethereal vocals. There are the voices of taunting children. There are flutes with feedback
Musical influences range from Daniel Lanois
’ infinite guitar
, to Eno’s discreet music
phase with Bowie
, to John Cage
’s VU tape loops
, while the presence of a 50s radio pop music sensibility rides the undercurrent (particularly, I kid you not, the Ink Spots Time Out For Tears
, The Beach Boys
’ ballads, or Phil Spector
’s stuff with the Chiffons
). The overall effect is both shattered and shattering.
Anything else I need to know?
The last track isn't listed on the sleeve, and the tape ran out when they were recording it, so you don’t have a bad copy, like I thought when I first borrowed it on cassette from a friend (it was grade 11, cassette tape
s were still an acceptable media). And should your recognition spark on a first time listen to the album, around track 17, an echoing guitar instrumental (a la Lanois or Michael Brook
), then you may have 'attenuated soundtrack recognition syndrome' because a portion of the piece showed up inexplicably in, of all films, Jerry Mcguire
, during the epiphany/'nervous breakdown scene (have to give Crowe credit though, first time I heard this it tweaked me too - there’s something just perfectly despondent about the last chord change ). Also, hyper-creepy, Svankmajer
-esque animators, the Quay Brothers
(of ‘The Street of Crocodiles
’ fame) rendered Are We Still Married?
(and Can’t Go Wrong Without You
, from the following LP, Mouth by Mouth
) into shorts for MTV
in late ‘92. Defever
is also apparently a devout evangelical Christian - though this does not seem to figure at all in the music - apart from some occasional religious imagery
in the lyrics. Oh, and yes, that's a dead giant squid
on the album cover.
Say, for the sake of argument, I love the record? What else might I try?
If you like the particular sound specific to HIIYH, the preceding & following His Name Is Alive
work is an excellent bet, that being Livonia
(1990) & Mouth By Mouth
(1993), respectively. After that point, HNIA tend to drift and their LPs get increasingly scattershot (with the exception of the most recent, Someday My Blues Will Cover The Earth
, but which sounds nothing like their early material).
If you find yourself more a fan of the vocals, I can tell you the band Love Spirals Downwards
has a lead singer whose voice is a dead ringer for Oliver’s on this record (particularly on the solo songs, like The Well or Tempe). Older Cocteau Twins (circa Treasure
) and the recent ‘Smile’s OK’ release by The Hope Blister
also have the same heavily textured atmospherics and vocals of HIIYH.
If, on the other hand, you find the instrumental work more compelling, you might want to give Flying Saucer Attack
a shot ~ both bands do parallel pieces of home-taped, drone-heavy psychedelic folk.
1. Are You Coming Down This Weekend? - :18 ~a prayer for visitation ~
2. Her Eyes Were Huge Things - 1:37 ~warbling voices over echoing steel strings ~
3. The Charmer - 2:14 ~distant ticking clocks, a lament & threat, ‘where has your head gone? i should nail it to her door...’ ~
4. Hope Called in Sick
- 1:36 ~ Song of Schizophrenia: chimes broken by broken guitar ~
5. My Feathers Needed Cleaning - 2:27 ~Song of Schizophrenia: tragedian chorus dirge - ‘we're going farther under/ to better hear the thunder’ - followed by dadaist chanting
6. The Well - 2:25 ~Song of Schizophrenia: Eurydicean solo ~
7. There's Something Between Us and He's Changing The Words
- 1:20 ~ bemoaning the infinite slippage of language ~
8. The Phoenix, a Pool of Ice - :50 ~underwater ~
9. Are We Still Married? - 2:51 ~ ‘kinda getting shot at / ‘kinda getting hurt ~
10. Put Your Finger in Your Eye - :44 ~looped choral piece over 1982 industrial beat segue ~
11. Home Is in Your Head - 2:23 ~brooding metal solo slowed to quarter-speed ~
12. Why People Disappear
- 4:17 ~recorder piece played in a windstorm, answered by geese, and echoed in a well, giving way to Buddy Holly-sounding ballad for the invisible ~
13. Here Eyes Are Huge - 1:11 ~steel-guitar solo ~
14. Save the Birds - :23 ~ ...from the cats... ~
15. Chances Are We Are Mad
- 2:37 ~ begins with wall of noise guitar scream, panning from speaker to speaker, leads into caustic lament - ‘and take the book & burn the pages & take the rage I have you for into something good’ - which segues back into guitar ~
16. Mesaclina - :48 ~and more ghostly flutes ~
17. Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking
- 3:25 ~ and another spectral infinite guitar solo ~
18. Very Bad a Bitter Hand - 3:02 ~ forlornly dislodged duet - "This is your last life / take me where you want to go/ do you hear the footsteps?/ i'm walking in your shadow"
19. Beautiful and Pointless
- 2:25 ~rising arc of strings followed by wavy steel guitar, buried lyrics ~
20. Tempe - 3:25 ~ another spectral duet - ‘Meet you by the water/ promise not to drown you’ ~
21. Spirit and Body - 1:49 ~the clock, ticking away urgently, returns again to be put down for a brief moment by a blaze of distorted guitar, only the ticking wins out, with a recorded mumble in the background - “i didn’t have to lie to you, I’m sure she’s dead, been gone a long time” ~
22. Love's a Fish Eye - 3:32 ~ a jangly campfire bop which wraps up in a whorl of feedback & convulsive noise ~
23. Dreams Are of the Body - 1:01 ~chant ~
24. The Other Body
- 1:41 *interrupted
* ~ A fragment of song, an innocent throw-off cut short that begins with a barely in audible (bur strange) ‘you have to wrap this thing around 'cause I can’t bend forward from the waist and sing?’ and ends mid-syllable in ‘with or without beyond.’~