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The Soft Hills — Chromatisms (2013)

 The Soft Hills — Chromatisms (2013)

The Soft Hills — Chromatisms
Location: Seattle, Washington
Album release: February 8th, 2013
Record Label: Tapete Records
Duration:     40:21
Tracks:
01. Riding High     (4:45)
02. Sweet Louise     (3:39)
03. Marigolds     (2:45)
04. Dear Mr. Moonlight     (3:17)
05. Payroll     (5:36)
06. Un     (3:49)
07. Horse & Carriage     (3:53)
08. The Gifts You Hide     (4:30)
09. Mighty River     (4:29)
10. Desert Rose     (3:18)
Members:
Brett Massa - bass, guitar, vocals
Garrett Hobba - vocals, guitar, piano
Randall Skrasek - drums, moog, vocals
Matthew Brown - guitar, lap steel
CREDITS:
Erik Blood  Mixing
Ed Brooks  Mastering
Matthew Emerson Brown  Engineer, Producer
Andrew Crawshaw  Design, Layout
Website: http://thesofthills.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Soft-Hills/136465592961
Kontakt: nina@tapeterecords.de
Booking: timo@tapeterecords.de
Press contact: US: Robert Vickers - proxymedia@frontiernet.net | press europe: nina@tapeterecords.de
Agent germany booking: timo.sauer@tapeterecords.de | france booking: emilie@zouave-spectacles.com
¶  Birdmen time-travelers, a tale of an unhappy girl named Louise, the story of a schizophrenic banned from paradise, celestial radio, oceanic dream therapy, reflections on death, a letter to the moon, madness, and euphoria. The Soft Hills' new album, Chromatisms, features ten new songs that explore these subjects and other ruminations on the human relationship with the unconscious and the emotional.
¶  Seattle indie group The Soft Hills were formed in 2007 by singer-songwriter Garrett Hobba. The current line-up consists of Hobba on guitar and vocals, Randall Skrasek on drums and moog, Matthew Brown on lapsteel and guitar, and Brett Massa on bass and vocals. With an appreciation for experimentation and harmony, their songs draw from a wide range of influences from folk to psychedelic to ambient, drawing on literary influences, and incorporating experiences from dreams and visions. The Soft Hills released their debut album The Bird Is Coming Down To Earth on Tapete Records in January 2012, which was followed by a European tour in May.
¶  Their new record Chromatisms is a study in contrasts - of light and shadow, yin and yang, birth and death. The album combines the delicate immediacy of folk with the power and majesty of post-rock, arrangements that nod to the classic era of 60's rock while looking forward with intertwining synths where beautiful harmonies sit on top of layers of feedback, and lyrics dig deep into the unconscious, trying to make sense of the magical and the real, the place between madness and euphoria.
¶  Compositionally, the band utilizes a diverse palette of colors, blending together reverbed guitars with moog textures, fuzzy riffs with mellotrons, lyrical bass lines against thunderous drums and delicate lapsteel weaving around vocals to create lush collages of sound. The music reveals a band in transfiguration, a group moving towards darker realms of sonic and lyrical exploration. The record was mixed by Erik Blood (Thee Satisfaction, Moondoggies, Shabazz Palaces) and produced by Matthew Brown (Trespassers William, Memphis, The Walkabouts).
¶  The Soft Hills are the musical adventure of Garrett Hobba, Matt Brown, Randall Skrasek, and Brett Massa. A Seattle band with an appreciation for experimentation and harmony, their songs draw from a wide range of influences from folk to psychedelic to ambient, drawing on literary influences, and incorporating experiences from dreams and visions. To listen to The Soft Hills' music is like wandering through a magical landscape where horse-like creatures run wild across velveteen fields and mythological birds soar under melancholy clouds. It is the band's love for space, melody, and sonic exploration that shines through their compositions.
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Review by Fred Thomas   (Editor rating: ***½)
¶  Seattle soft psych-rockers the Soft Hills blended the rural with the spectral on their 2012 album The Bird Is Coming Down to Earth. That album's magnanimous blend of heavy guitar tones, spaced-out production, and gentle vocal harmonies found itself in the strange waters somewhere between a modern indie folk sound and a throwback to classic rock's FM radio freakouts. With third album Chromatisms, the band digs deeper into the sound it began on the album prior, turning more toward the spacy than the folky on these ten songs. Beginning with muddy rockers like "Riding High" and "Sweet Louise," the tone is set for a tense and brooding album. Fleet Foxes-like harmonies tell stories of depression and giving up while waves of looping guitar and crashing drums cruise by with abandon before colliding with malfunctioning analog synth noise. It's when the Soft Hills turn the volume down, however, that their strengths and subtleties shine through the most. The gorgeously spare "Dear Mr. Moonlight" begins with a dialed-back duet of Pink Floyd-esque echoed pulses and singer Garrett Hobba's thin voice delayed into the stratosphere. The song patiently unfolds into a melancholic wandering akin to Neil Young's darkest moments circa On the Beach. It's a breathtaking moment, and one that only gets space to breathe when the band slows down enough to let it happen. Similarly, "Un" coasts by on a psychedelic groove augmented by graceful harmonies. The relatively less boisterous track calls to mind both Bobb Trimble's cold isolation and the inner darkness of Dennis Wilson's masterpiece Pacific Ocean Blue. A fair amount of reverb, tape echo, and majestic synthesizer shows up throughout Chromatisms, and intricate touches like these come through best in the quiet moments, but also add depth and power to epic tracks like "Mighty River." It's a washy, varied ride from a band increasingly in control of its powers. As the Soft Hills continue to hone their sound, the moments of spaced-out production meeting tender harmony make more sense, as do the blasts of fuzz and tension.
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Biography by Fred Thomas
¶  Seattle, Washington-based indie Americana band the Soft Hills began in late 2007 with drummer Caleb Heinrich working out songwriter/guitarist Garret Hobba's understated tunes with him. The two were joined by bassist/guitarist Drew Dresman in December of that year and began playing live locally. Multi-instrumentalists Brittan Drake and Brett Massa joined the group in 2008, filling out Hobba's melancholic indie songs with additional keyboard flourishes and guitar work. In this time, the band recorded their debut EP, Painted World, in a nearby elementary school, putting to use many of the children's toy instruments on the recording. This EP was followed in 2010 by debut full-length Noruz. Shortly after, Caleb Heinrich was replaced by drummer/Moog player Randall Skrasek (also of Seattle psych rock band Hypatia Lake). Drew Dresman left the band in July 2010 to go to grad school, leaving the Soft Hills a four-piece, and uncluttering their sound somewhat. With a solid lineup in place, the band worked ceaselessly to develop their sound, cultivating a soft psych take on indie rock bearing elements in common with the sad slowcore of Red House Painters as well as contemporaries like Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes. The band toured the U.S. several times in this period. In late 2011, the group began work on second full-length album, The Bird Is Coming Down to Earth. The record saw release in early 2012 and a European tour was planned for the early summer of that year. Third album Chromatisms materialized in early 2013.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Also by Elliah Heifetz | 8 February 2013 (Rating: **): http://www.musicomh.com/reviews/albums/the-soft-hills-chromatisms
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The Soft Hills — Chromatisms (2013)

 

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