Brooklyn/LA two-piece High Places have been lurking in the fringes for half a decade now, a whisper on the winds of music blogs and tastemaker playlists since 2007’s self-titled EP. Their early name was etched out through a knack for glitchy beats and quirky vocals, dancefloor experiment by way of a playground, singsong naivety and a sound that at points approached the carnivalesque.
The years have darkened the duo, though, last year’s High Places Vs Mankind turning their sound inwards, paring the excesses down and leaving the whimsy to suffocate and die. A year on, and it’s clear that the Californian sunshine has done nothing to thaw them: Original Colors may be more focused than its predecessors, its production more muscular and its tone more measured, but there’s little sign of light beyond a flickering, burnt-out neon and a haze of urban streetlamps.
First single Year Off sets the template: a bedrock of mechanical noise and scraping textures, flaying and insistent, as Mary Pearson’s vocals alternate between a high alto and a wearied and reverb-heavy spoken word. It’s a brash and striking start, potent and aggressive and yet somehow slightly tender, Pearson sounding lost amidst the storm all around.
And whilst it calms a little it never really abates, Rob Barber’s clattered beats and bass swoops a persistent artillery driving the album forward. Highpoints include the hypnotic vocal swirl of Banksia and the warm atmospherics of Sophia, although by the midpoint track names are kind of an irrelevance: individual songs have long since blurred and melded like the T1000 in the molten core, the screaming outlines of Telepathe, of Hybrid and Leftfield all visible in the churn.
That’s not a bad thing particularly, although it’s difficult to shake the sense that Original Colors is at heart a soundtrack in search of a film, some future dystopia of rain-wracked highways and noirish chases across corrugated rooftops. Something like Blade Runner, essentially. So what if that’s been done before: so, really, has everything here. And hey, that’s ok.