|Hello Blue Roses|
Hello Blue Roses — WZO (February 1st, 2015)
•• Hello, Blue Roses is a Canadian musical collaboration involving Dan Bejar (of Destroyer and The New Pornographers) and his girlfriend, Sydney Vermont, a visual artist from Vancouver.
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Album release: February 1st, 2015
Record Label: JAZ RECORDS
01. Amulet 2:57
02. Telepathy 1:48
03. Errant Sophia 2:53
04. Brutalist Brick 4:01
05. Wild Reed ( A Crone's Advice To Her Daughter, Wild Reed ) 3:47
06. Crashing 2:25
07. Wading Pools 1:59
08. Ghosts 3:24
09. Alizarin Cream 2:06
10. Speak To Me 3:19
♦ All songs by Sydney Hermant, except Ghosts by David Sylvian
♦ Produced by Cary Mercer at Quadraticus Studios
♦ Essential Tracks: “Brutalist Brick”, “Amulet”
♦ Sydney Hermant — vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, gong
♦ Daniel Bejar — vocals, acoustic guitar, organ, arp
♦ Carey Mercer — electric guitar, drum machines, percussion, effects. arp
♦ Melanie Campbell — drums
♦ Terri Upton — bass
♦ Josh Wells — bongos
♦ Artwork by Jen Weih
Mark Anthony Brennan April 18, 2015; Rating: ****
•• It would be easy to dismiss Hello Blue Roses as a side project of Dan Bejar (Destroyer, The New Pornographers), but you’d be way off the mark. First of all, this is more the project of his partner, visual artist Sydney Hermant, who did most of the writing and sings all of the lead vocals. Second of all, HBR is a musical force in its own right, making a bold statement and pushing boundaries.
•• Hermant’s delicately clear voice takes centre stage here, hovering high above the instrumentation as if it’s operating on a different level entirely (and perhaps it is). It’s angelic, but at the same time it is laced with a gravitas. Hermant is wistful but too world–weary to be flat–out romantic. By way of example, on “Amulet” she speaks of carrying her lover around like an amulet, because the concept of him is more real than his actual presence (“you were always on the way out”).
•• If taken as an album of intriguing singer–songwriter tunes then ‘WZO’ would be impressive enough, but it is far more than that. HBR take high baroque pop (think late sixties Lee Hazlewood or Scott Walker) and thrust it up through the layers of contemporary dream pop to startling new heights. It’s like listening to a lounge act while sitting around the methane pools of Neptune (spacesuit tux highly recommended). Of course they stand on the shoulders of giants in doing so, taking off from levels already paved out by the likes of Bjork, Goldfrapp and Portishead. It’s an admirable leap nevertheless.
•• The songs’ arrangements and instrumentation are what make the leap possible. With the use of reverb, quiet distortion and deep echo, HBR create a sound that is both stirringly nostalgic and clinically futuristic at the same time. One gets the sense that the overall production is a collaborative effort between the two partners, but there is no denying that Bejar’s touch (from Destroyer especially) is all over it.
•• One of the album’s many highlights is the inspired cover of Japan’s “Ghosts”, wherein HBR take the British art rock band and park them in downtown (ha) Twin Peaks, Washington. For that matter, when listening to ‘WZO’ we are all there, having a damn fine cup of coffee and cherry pie at the Double–R. No complaints. Damn fine place to be.
REVIEW, QBIM SPINS, July 14, 2015 |
•• Seven years on from The Portrait Is Finished and I Have Failed to Capture Your Beauty, Sydney Hermant (who at the time of that album went by “Sydney Vermont”) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers, Swan Lake) have released a second Hello Blue Roses record of sophisticated pop. Though it took five months from its February 2015 release to show up on my radar, WZO (Jaz Records) is a welcomed, musical return.
•• Hermant’s songwriting (she’s penned nine of WZO’s songs, the 10th is a cover of Japan’s “Ghosts”) is all idiosyncratic poetry, tapped into the emotional resonance of the song’s stories but told from a detached, neutral perspective. Maybe she’s a sympathetic observer, or maybe it’s first–hand retelling from a safe, defensive distance, but throughout WZO, Hermant is a keen observer of the human condition.
•• The cadence of Hermant’s voice on opener “Amulet” echoes the erratic rise and fall of a fraying relationship, where lovers get “drunk on yesterday’s morning dew” and repeatedly find themselves sobering up in a dark, desolate present. Alcohol makes another appearance a couple of songs later; “Spent a long time with my tongue dipped in booze,” admits the protagonist of “Brutalist Brick” before offering “but I’m glad I spent it dipped in you too.”
•• Speaking of appearances, Hermant enjoys the company of some fine musical friends besides her partner Bejar (who adds some vocals, acoustic guitar, and organ). •• Bejar’s Swan Lake collaborator Carey “Frog Eyes” Mercer (who also plays a multitude of instruments on the record) produced WZO, and features Mercer’s wife (and Frog Eyes’ drummer) Melanie Campbell, and Terri Upton (bass) and Josh Wells (bongos) from Black Mountain. You would never know they were around, though; WZO is very much Hermant’s canvas, and she paints it with lyrical brush strokes and musical colours as vivid and welcoming as the name Hello Blue Roses implies. WZO is a finished portrait, beauty captured in abundance on each note.
BY ADAM KIVEL ON FEBRUARY 10, 2015, 6:00AM; SCORE: B–
•• JAZ Records is proud to present the long–awaited, second HELLO BLUE ROSES LP, WZO. It was produced by CAREY MERCER (FROG EYES, BLACKOUT BEACH) at his Quadraticus Studios in Vancouver, early 2014, and bears the stamp of the cooked guitars and echoing beats associated with that room. The record is haunted by HERMANT’s etherized and insistent vocals about women and ghosts, accompanied by her guitar drones and plucks. Holding it down are MELANIE CAMPBELL and TERRI UPTON (FROG EYES rhythm section on loan), JOSH WELLS (BLACK MOUNTAIN, LIGHTNING DUST, SUR UN PLAGE, DESTROYER) with yet another star bongo turn, and Mercer himself, whose singular axework, drum progamming and live knob–twiddling are a cornerstone of the WZO Sound. Oh yeah, and DAN BEJAR (DESTROYER) gently strums away, bababaing in the background, Spector–ing whole days of work spent without him, or making everyone sandwiches. A record made in the midst of regular life, jobs and strikes, the beach and the backyard, children–negotiating. WZO is a limited edition run on original giclee print by Vancouver–based artist JEN WEIH.
|Hello Blue Roses|