October 12, 2011

Album Review: High Places' Original Colors

High Places were birthed into the music world during the climactic rise of Brooklyn's experimental indie explosion of 2007 with their all-encompassing style of noise and pop, a sound that made each sequential effort of theirs as unpredictable as the next. On their third proper LP, Original Colors, however, the duo of Mary Pearson and Rob Barber offer the biggest surprise of all to their listeners: A lack there of.

It's always been difficult to peg a certain sound on High Places, as the percussive band tends to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their recordings using a concoction of samples, syncopated rhythms and Pearson's soft-shelled vocal harmonies to create unreplicable pop beats. Original Colors finds Pearson and Barber indulging in current electronic, dubstep-like trends that unfortunately don't always play to the band's strengths as innovative multi-instrumentalists. More often served with restraint and less of the fixings from the musical collages of their self-titled debut or last year's High Places vs. Mankind, the album represents a single layer of High Places' otherwise multi-faceted sound. At their best, Pearson and Barber's streamlined avante-synth offerings are assuring examples of pop music being deconstructed and rebuilt for a growing Altered Zones demographic who is able to recognize a high-brow ambient, artistic appeal in dance music ("Year Off," "Dry Lake," "Alto Lugares.") It's really Original Colors repetitive nature and a simplified James Blake-eseque dub-warping aesthetic that inhibits the listen, though. There's a definite lack of variation in rhythm, too, the further you make you travel into the LP that makes it a trying effort to maintain interest in one sitting.

It should be noted that recently, High Places made the move from the Brooklyn community that nurtured them into the spotlight to the cosmetic hills of Los Angeles. With this geographical change, it was probably expected that Pearson and Barber would grossly try to reinvent themselves for their new surroundings with an antithetic sound. Their intention to do just that on this album is a testament of their risk-taking nature, but without the usual vibrant hues and textures in tow, Original Colors plays like a greyscale listen.

High Places' Original Colors is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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