The Harvey Girls
I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately
Label: Circle Into Square
Does music have to be “real?” Is seven musicians performing a song in a studio somehow more legit than an ambitious kid fucking around on a laptop? I say no. As the computer narrows the gap between the real and the artificial, Lady Gaga and Loudon Wainwright can sit together more comfortably than ever on my iTunes playlist in alphabetical harmony.
Give some mushroom-eating luddite the Harvey Girls’ I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately and he’ll probably dig the folk psychedelia that husband-and-wife team Hiram Lucke and Melissa Rodenbeek lay down in its brisk nine tracks. Then tell him that the record’s full of loops and samples. And that the band cites Prince Paul as an influence. Then watch his head explode.
The Harvey Girls want to trick you into listening to them. “The Body Without Any Eyes” opens with field recordings of horses and what sounds like a few country gospel acoustic guitars. Just when you think you’re in for something down-home and soulful, conjuring images of people playing around a campfire, one of the guitars starts playing in reverse. Ha ha- it’s a sample, and the Harvey Girls can recommend all-surface Windex to wipe up those flecks of brain matter.
I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies is both title and artist’s statement. Much of Horror Movies feels like getting lost in the woods at different times of day. Sometimes it’s haunting as the minimalist “FWIW” stalks the listener in the middle of the night, circling around trees and emerging from the bush when we’re not looking. Other times it’s sunny and playful as “Smile like Gwynplaine” gives us a break from darkness in the middle of the record with jaunty drums and Theremin buzz, as if Shaun of the Dead tried to appropriate “AM180″ from 28 Days Later. “Only Apparitions on the Lawn,” a standout track, is the most obviously woodsy track on the record. By which I mean it sounds like Robyn Hitchcock.
Horror Movies stands tallest when the pseudo-folkiness lets other genres play in its yard. The downright hip-hop opening to “Puss” is a real attention-grabber. Hip-hop-style percussion also gives danceable undertones to the dark, Radiohead-like textures of “A Letter to the Bees.” And if I could have an entire album of jangly indie rock songs like the penultimate “Monster” I would be a very happy man indeed.
The record closes with “Alpha Invasion On Delta Waves (Lullaby Of Brueghel),” a nine-minute track that has all of the Harvey Girls’ tools at work- electronic sounds, weird effects, nature sounds- creating an otherworldly transmission that explodes into space rock cacophony.
Ever a case study for the wonders of modern technology vis a vis musical recording, I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately plays with boundaries and territories but never lets the map get confusing, no matter how lost we get in the haunting loops, field recordings, and spooky bleeps.
by Danny Djeljosevic