I would be remiss if I didn’t start this review off by saying that despite it being sometimes challenging, sometimes infuriating, sometimes impenetrable, Bear in Heaven’s 2012 album I Love You, It’s Cool had some absolutely startling, amazing songs included within it. Not least the first track of the whole collection, ‘Idle Heart,’ which is becoming one of my favourite album openers ever thanks to its unique structure, mind-blowing crescendos and its complete control over its own blissed-out, synth-pop direction. I love it. I have to say this now because although I enjoy Bear in Heaven’s other two albums, their third one was a crowning achievement. I have been sceptical as to whether the Brooklyn band could actually top its giddy heights with their fourth effort, Time Is Over One Day Old.
Perhaps the band knew that lightning wouldn’t strike twice in the same place. So like any wise band, they turned around and did something completely different. Well, okay, not completely different – the synth hooks, swirling reverb and complex structures are all still there, except this time they sound more epic, more sprawling and more comfortable in their own subversive skin. It sounds strange but even in turning their backs on some of I Love You’s most memorable and mesmerising hooks, the sheer mystery and intrigue about the twists and turns this album presents is delicious enough as it is.
Take ‘They Dream,’ which initially sounds like a deleted scene from I Love You. Its frenetic pace and Jon Philpot’s voice – swathed in lashings of reverb as ever – blur together like a rush of neon lights. But a mere two minutes and eleven seconds in, the tempo is completely halted in its tracks, the space synths disintegrating all the while. When Philpot’s voice returns, he is the only element taking centre stage, not washed along by the tidal wave of maximalist electronica anymore. It’s a real curveball for any real Bear in Heaven fan, especially those who were turned on to I Love You. Whereas that album showed its hand proudly, Time Is Over One Day Old feels like a constant barrage of ideas, walls of sound and high drama that should technically be overwhelming but somehow manages to be a lovingly crafted, magical compositions that excite and surprise at every turn.
But a large criticism I had of I Love You was that as a whole the album never quite knew how to change gear. It was constantly stuck in a steady fourth, with no variation and no stopping. It was kind of like being on the M1 for an hour without a pit stop at the nearest service station. Presumably the band had some inkling of this too, as Time Is Over manages to vary the tempo over the course of the LP without feeling forced or artificial. ‘The Sun and the Moon and the Stars’ is built around a cymbal and tambourine, with some shoegaze guitar and nicely restrained percussion crafted around its foundation. The LP ends with ‘You Don’t Need the World,’ a rather simple composition by Bear in Heaven’s standards which survives on a handclap beat and a cyclical riff.
‘You Don’t Need the World’ encapsulates what listening to Bear in Heaven has always been like. Hearing this band is like being cast adrift on a wonderful, ethereal cloud and as Philpot’s recognisable vocal sings ‘the world is full of shit,’ you forget your troubles for a little while and let the band take you. Time Is Over represents the band at their most imaginative best, possessing the flair and intelligence few other electronic bands right now do. I love it, it’s cool.
(P.S. Sorry about the lack of videos that match – at the point of writing, there are no examples of the specific songs I talk about but these still give a good impression.)