Art rock from The Big Easy: it might not be hot yet oxymoron it’s not.
Among the many musical genres New Orleans has to offer, prog would take a footnote position but, given the individual and joint experimentations with jazz idiom, it was an easy transition for guitarist Cliff Hines and singer Sasha Masakowski. Hiding behind the coldness of their band’s name, they embrace deceptive alienation over the course of these ten songs high on elusiveness, as the solemn, if adventurous, finale of “Vanishing Hue” suggests, and emotion in equal measure that floats to the fore from the off.
Opener “A-Z” kicks in with a cooing cut across by a heavy riff which unfolds into insistent, groovy flamenco once the vocals get solid to be wrapped in acoustic strum and cosmic synths before sonic chaos introduces madness to the method – and the method here is folk. Fusion may inform the gracious dance of “Siren Song” and the ivories’ ebb and flow in the vibrant “Cabin” but ethnic patterns seep into the cold harmonies of “Sally Brown” with its spare piano, and into the intimate voices of “Isolation” whose chamber setting betrays the artists’ classical bent. That’s why “Austria” waltzes elegantly behind the spaced-out veil of a vocoderized singing until a six-string rage blows the piece’s cool, while “Quetzal” spreads its velvet wings in a much more freeform, orchestrally angular fashion.
Yet that’s just a surface tension, for “Hildegard” is a record of many layers which reveal themselves with every new spin. A promising debut.