From the opening of High Places‘ third record, Original Colors, it’s clear that something fairly fundamental has changed. The best moments off of the self-titled debut from the duo of Rob Barber and Mary Pearson were undeniably cute, the electronic instrumentation glimmering and pulsing, the polyrhythms and love story lyrical content dripping with sentimentalism. The darkwave, almost Depeche Mode-y synths and lost-at-sea vocal performance from Pearson on album opener “Year Off”, on the other hand, have an eerie confidence to them, a new dance music bleakness.
The reverb-dripping vocals on “The Pull” are certainly familiar, but the once interestingly multi-layered electronics here sound one-note, a dance track that would get people to the floor without any of the same eclectic trance that made their last two albums charming. The drum ‘n’ bass keeps on coming on “Morning Ritual”, Pearson’s wavering, lithe vocal delivery foregrounded over Barber’s dark, shuddering, dubby electronic mix. The esoteric polyrhythm of “Banksia”, on the other hand, is far more similar to High Places’ past, but the echo-heavy vocal treatment and insistent drum machine track keep things acid dance happy.
The atmospheric airiness of “Ahead Stop” provides a nice interlude to all of the beats, returning to their form with the ’80s-friendly “Dry Lake”, where Pearson once again is the chilly, inhuman voice over the top of a traditional dance track. “Sonora” clicks and drips like a leaky faucet, warbly chanted melodies tripping over the top. The wish for a “view of distant mountains” isn’t the same bedroom twee material that they used to cover, but it certainly sounds natural in this context. It’s something bigger, wilder, and less pop structured.
Essential Tracks: “Year Off”, “Sonora”