“Ominous melancholy precipitated by the sickening status quo”, state Hear Hums in their label’s store page, tingeing the psychedelics in Malaise with the bite they no longer inspire. It’s no throwback to the ‘doors of perception’ ideal, though, for the journey they articulate is one in which those doors, once privy to those willing to disjoint themselves from matter, have been corrupted, irrevocably misused as gateway to yet another frontier to brave, yet another space to conquer. Through the slow, earthy rooting of percussions, it never allows us to detach, to lose ourselves, because that is precisely how the ideal was stricken with a deadly mark, allowing it to be an escape instead of a tool to mold matter. The other main part of the instrumentation is made up of strings, which constantly sounds the unmistakable tones of meditative music – they might make the mind soar, but their sinuosity is always pulled back into short patterns that develop very little over time, interrupted once and again by voices, piano, sound samples, other instruments that do not let them become one with the electric pulses of our brains.
It is bright and sad music, decidedly outside the common frame of references that would take us back to the 1960s and 70s; while indebted to it, Malaise stands apart, being much more akin to projects of a fundamentally deconstructive spirit such as Chicagojazzen, Gomma Workshop, perhaps Gang Gang Dance. A polyphonic structure, stray bits of aural waste (yet never chaotic), and a simple, home-made kind of production go against the electric/electronic, noisy soundscapes of its source of inspiration, shifting the entire album into an ironic mode. Psychedelia, they could seem to say, is sick: because we are so held by power we are unable to release our minds from it, projecting it endlessly everywhere instead. The malaise the title speaks of is, in many ways, already a part of our minds. This is where irony comes in, as shield and denunciation, with dog barks and human growls accompanying a melancholic female voice in lament, an animal, base reaction that pulls the mind back from its meandering and makes it look at an unfiltered here and now.
Sadness is, of course, a source of kinds of movement we usually deny as paralyzing passivity, but even if precipitated, it bears its own flows and rhythms, a way into the mind for which the access is not ecstasy but sorrow, looking down toward the earth and not up toward the skies. Hear Hums attempt to unlock this other door, turning music made for contemplation into music made for looking, interacting with the world and oneself in the unhappy knowledge that the state of things could be so different, so much better, for every-thing and every-one. In its brightness, it is perhaps not meant to overwhelm, but to bring about an emotional state that shuts the third eye because we are not yet ready for it, inviting us to sing along, to let it out, to try to treat the sickness that resides deep in the imaginary projections with which we make the world into our image. Do not let the title, or the disturbing album cover, make you think this is yet another apocalyptic embrace: this is utopian music, and as with the artists mentioned beforehand, one-of-a-kind, outsider in spirit and realization, highly original and strange. Do not let it pass you by! (David Murrieta)