Heat from a Dead Star - Lighten Our Minds Review
by Patrick Muldowney
In the world of music, rock is arguably the simplest form. Compared to an orchestra, which assembles many accomplished musicians to perform symphonies, rock bands may assemble a few guys who enjoy the same watering hole, and need to relieve some aggression. Often, the saving grace for rock music is the lyrics, because people can identify with situations and emotions. Therefore, it is always a risk to be the band that forsakes the lyrics in favor of some grand sonic experience. Heat from a Dead Star is a band who engages in such risky behavior.
Lighten Our Minds is an EP from this English trio comprised of six songs. In many ways, it fits the attempts of predecessors such as Don Caballero and Trans Am. The one way in which it most importantly fails to match, is in quality of tone. This is especially true concerning the guitar, which in many ways bears the burden of proving vocals are not necessary. Prck Parker's guitar sounds like it is being played through a multi-effects pedal, which is muddy when he attempts the chunky distortion and a tin foil quality metal during some of the noisier, experimental parts. Apart from that, the guitar sounds great, but the two cheap effects seem to find their way in each of the six songs, which brings me to a final comment about Parker's work. If you're in an experimental, instrumental band, experiment with more than a few effects.
Concerning the rhythm section, there are quite a few moments in which the drumming of Rzn Schtark carries the song. Schtark keeps the changes tight, which often require adjustments in tempo, like in "Black Swans", while adding fills that temporarily convince you these guys don't need a singer. On the other hand, the bassist, Ph. Gerber, mostly moves along with the drums in a plodding way, while shadowing the notes of Parker, which does not provide much to the overall sound.
The one track on Lighten Our Minds in which the three members collaborate masterfully is "Downhearted", where the members refreshingly allow each other individual moments. The guitar and bass work together in much the same way Joey Santiago and Kim Deal have on some memorable Pixies tracks, fading in and out tastefully and aggressively. Then, for the last minute, they give way to a minute of Schtark, who proves able to fill that time skillfully with beats that could get an audience of any size rocking.
Following a listen to Lighten Our Minds, you may question whether this band does not have a singer, or does not need a singer. For most of the album it is a matter of them not having a singer, because their music is not complicated enough to defy vocals. In the future, Heat from a Dead Star may be better off following the lead of predecessors like June of 44 and Polvo, who played some instrumentals, but added vocals when such was required. By doing this, their music will not become a background of faceless tracks that lose the listener's attention.
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