Music alive with dissonance, but equally enthralled by elegance and experimentation
Mike Diver 2009-08-27
The title’s an entirely apt one: HEALTH truly Get Color. They understand the appeal of contrast, how an imbalance between X and Y can actually produce the most beautiful Z. Their music is alive with dissonance, but equally enthralled by elegance and experimentation; it is vivid, striking, absolutely brilliant to dance to but just as likely to send a newcomer running, screaming, to the safety of Snow Patrol.
This is the Los Angeles-based four-piece’s second album; their first, a self-titled affair which earned a sizeable spread of positive reviews upon its official UK release in 2008 (and more stateside), was characterised by mix-dominating percussion, electronic pulses and screeches smattered across a collection of skull-rattling beat-scapes. It attracted enough attention to send the band to Europe and beyond, and they’ve enjoyed tours and shows with acts of similar blog appeal, including No Age and, recently, Deerhunter.
Get Color is quite clearly a step towards wider (although never mainstream) acceptance – lead single Die Slow is a pulverising piece of electro chirrups and low-end rumbles, but the dreamy vocals and silken synth sounds are absolutely tuned to beat-freaks with as much, if not more, love for bass-heavy floor-fillers as basement-headlining indie bands. Penultimate offering We Are Water is a flashback of sorts to the band’s interim-period remix album, which took the cacophony of HEALTH’s debut and mixed it with techno shades – the track is sure to have even the least-focused listener twitching with approval. At its climax, though, it shifts form to mimic the avant-metal of fellow townsfolk Isis: a surprising but pleasing twist.
For all its apparent compositional concessions, though, Get Color still features a wealth of boundary-testing noise: Death+ stutters and spits its fractured beats, the sonic death throes of a laptop behemoth; Severin echoes the demolition ball bombast of the band’s debut; and Eat Flesh plays out like the soundtrack to a Lynch-ian future-world vision full of cyborg clones indulging in sordid sex games.
Through operating largely at the wild frontiers of rock and dance, HEALTH are an always challenging outfit, and Get Color is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing the sounds inside their heads without actually slicing their own skulls open. There’s always next time, mind.