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Detrola by His Name Is Alive
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With Detrola, His Name Is Alive brainchild Warren Defever finally combines all his musical interests on one album! Whether it's soulful heavy soul, gurgling electro-pop, smooth confessional indie-folk, or strange bedroom croon tunes--they're all here. It's not exactly "cohesive." In fact, the whole thing sounds more like a mix tape or a collection of career-spanning demos. But when Lovetta Pippen's impressive voice collides perfectly with Defever's eerie, pretty, and downright sexy production--as it does on more than half this album--the results are wonderful. Thank goodness H.N.I.A. has returned from semi-retirement! No one else could make music that sounds like this, no matter how hard they tried. On a parallel world, these guys have sold at least as many records as the Eurythmics or Tatu. One can remain hopeful that one day their blues will indeed cover the earth. Until then, there's no harm in letting it wash all over you. --Mike McGonigal
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However, Detrola brings back the musical genius of Defever. I don't think it's quite as good as Ft.Lake, but probably the equal to E.S.P. Karin Oliver (last album was Ft.Lake) had such a great voice; Andy F.M.(new singer) sounds very similar, almost in a spooky way. The sound of that voice, whether it comes from Karin or Andy, is HNIA. My only complaint is the length. A little too short in my opinion, though that might be an illusion because it's so good and I don't want it to end.
After one independent and two major-label albums in an R & B and jazz-inspired vein, here we see a return to the sort of idiosyncratic pop and retro stylings of late '90s HNIA. I was generally pleased by HNIA's turn to soul stylings in the albums WHEN THE STARS... and SOMEDAY MY BLUES..., and the latter is even one of HNIA's finest efforts. But with LAST NIGHT, I was unhappy with Warn's surrendering of creative control to his musicians, resulting in an inconsistent album that lacked the cleverness of Warn's songwriting. On DETROLA, however, everything is tight and meticulously arranged, and one is always certain that music is straight from the vision of this titan of indie music.
And all Warn's old concerns are here, from sexual innuendo hidden behind syrupy pop that you don't notice until you start singing along (e.g. "In my dreams it's beautiful, we go down at the same time... just like a six and like a nine"), to uncomfortably threatening murmurs ("not everyone gets a warning...", "I'll drown you in a stream..."). No wonder one notable review called it a collection of "perverse fantasies", but it's some of the most moving songwriting around.
Musically, there's a mix of the old and the new. Vocalist Andy FM hearkens back to the days of long-time HNIA vocalist Karin Oliver, and the old b-side "You Need A Heart To Live" is recorded again here. There's also two very striking new developments, the first being acoustic ambient music tied to some of Warn's latest compositional work, and the second a striking use of drum machines something like Swayzak with a sense of humour. The only bits remaining from the R & B era are one track with vocalist Lovetta Pippen ("Seven Minutes") and some saxophone here and there. All in all, however, everything seems so fresh that Warn is in no way "back-peddling" from his controversial post-millennium style, but rather it all sounds like a clear and organic progression.
DETROLA is a fun album any fan of indie pop will find enjoyable. If I rate this less than five stars, it's only because I personally have generally moved away from the 4AD bands I adored in my youth towards (modern- or contemporary) classical music. But for fans of HNIA of whatever period, DETROLA is very much worth hearing.
The 2-album foray into soul has left it's mark indelibly, it's in the very wires and circuitry of the songs -- however Detrola tastes like a delicious slice of the distant, slowly spinning dream-pop past.