Florals/Shell is a neat way to introduce a new project: two EPs, one on each side of a bright green 12″. As a founding member of Trophy Wife, Ben Rimmer (now known as Heavenly Stems) is not entirely new, but his moniker is, and the new sound is tailor-made for summer. “Penned as expressions of admiration for trees,” these ten tracks ~ best heard as two long-form mixes ~ sing of the forest, growth and light.
After the brief shower of “Take,” Florals’ title track kicks the project into high gear. Snappy snares and sub-bass invite the listener to put shawls and bonnets aside and frolic. The piano lends the project a headier air, respecting the height of the ancients. A euphoric vocal sample launches the emotion to the treetops. On the basis of this track alone, we sense a huge potential crossover appeal; the stereo separation would sound amazing on a monstrous club system. But it doesn’t end there; after a brief ambient diversion, “Links” resurrects the rhythm with synthesized handclaps, a piano line reminiscent of 90s trance and a modern vocal loop. And while only two minutes remain, the tickings of “Fall” serve as clocklike reminders of the passage of time.
Shell acts with admirable symmetry. As “Take” ended in rain, “Scintilla” ends in fire; and from this fire, the highlight track is introduced. “Overstory” (the title inspired by Richard Powers) has a sci-fi feel reminiscent of the novel. A hint of modern composition provides the piece, and by extension, the EP, with welcome gravity. A radio edit is also available. Like Florals, the EP turns reflective in the center, a family of birds happy to introduce the title track and likely second single; when the beats kick in, the celebration begins. The birds sing until the end, above the cello (created from wood) and loops (like tree rings). At the end, one feels refreshed, as if forest bathing in sound.
By calling Florals and Shell “the first two steps of a larger body of work,” Rimmer has primed his listeners for an album. Here’s hoping Heavenly Stems continues to sprout. (Richard Allen)