Hinterland: Under the Waterline (Hybrid Electric Records, 2003)
Sometimes epochal, ethereal and sometimes noisy and edgy, Hinterland brings to the table a mixture of landscapes and explosive choruses and bridges. I hate to make comparisons, but sometimes it seems necessary in order to describe some music in words. I find their louder parts to be like early Viva Voce and their landscapes are painted with a touch of Low and My Bloody Valentine. Vocally, Michaela Galloway reminds me of Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Anita Robinson of Viva Voce, although she definitely brings her own style to the recording. I like her vocals most in the more patient parts of the songs. She lends her “instrument” to fill in and compliment the flowing landscapes beautifully.
The opening track on this disc really showcases the band’s talent. “Wasnteverwinded” has layered pipes and begins with strong bass. It immediately shows their ability to paint landscapes with their music. There seems to be angst here among the landscapes as the guitars built and Michaela‘s vocals kick in. Her vocals are melodic on top of soaring guitars and the underlying pipes in the background. “Lethe Waters”, the second track, is definitely a highlight of the record. The drums on this album are in a trip-pop style, the guitars are soft and complimentary, while Michaela‘s vocals really are impressive. The band really showcases their potential on this track. “Lethe Waters” is definitely what I wished the entire disc was like. This is Michaela‘s best vocal showing on the disc, and vocals her on this track are beautiful.
“Low Low Light” is a slow tempo song with soaring vocals. Here, Michaela‘s vocals are very strong and powerful. Her vocals are layered over pensive drums, lightly strummed guitars and a wash of keys. Another strength of this band is the bass playing. The bass is never overly used but is used tastefully and in support of the song. “Heavy-Eyed and Hiding” is also highlight on this disc. It is also slow and patient. A very strait forward slow tempo song, this track is unique because of Michaela‘s vocals. I am also impressed when bands can produce a six minute song and still have the song be interesting from beginning to end. This is certainly something Hinterland does well. I think that “Tiger Tiger” is my favorite track on the entire disc. It has layered background vocals and it is a great slow-core oriented song. It is dreamy and patient, blending flute like sounds with stripped down drums, bass, and sprinkles of guitar.
That being said, I have a few critical remarks to add to the above accolades. First, although Michaela‘s voice is stong on many parts of the disc, there are places where you can tell she is pushing herself. Of course, I don’t want to take away from the beauty of her vocals. I just say this because I know that her vocals can only grow from here and I greatly look forward to hearing her develop as a singer. Also, I think the album to be strongest in it’s pensive, patient, slow moments. When the songs turn “rock” in places, I find that it takes away from the beauty of the landscapes they so expertly build in their songs.
All in all, this is a strong freshman release for this band. It’s certainly not perfect, but the strengths certainly outweigh the weaknesses on this disc. For fans of slo-core, space-rock, or shoegaze, this disc will certainly be an enjoyable one. I will be playing it over and over again as time goes on.