The second album from Bristolian acid-folk-psych-rock outfit Hi Fiction Science has landed on my virtual doormat, and I am looking forward to more of their ethereal floating seeds of psychedelic whimsy. Three years ago their self-titled first album showed some promise, and unusually for a small independent outfit, there have been no line up changes in the interim, which can only assist a collective progression.
Again self-produced, the album has mixing duties performed by Jim Barr, who has worked with fellow Bristol denizens Portishead and Get The Blessing, and the band have been spotted by the radar of Esoteric Antenna. All this bodes well for the record, so onwards and upwards…
It would have induced a knowing smile had Curious Yellow been named after the 1967 Swedish sex’n’socio-politico movie of almost the same name; as it is the album title was inspired by “Jeff Noon’s dystopian Sci-Fi novel ‘Vurt’…Curious Yellow is one of the ‘English Voodoo’ strain of rare and contraband drug feathers in the book, that can lead to a trip from which you may never return!”, according to band member James McKeown. All that is far more in keeping with this band’s swirling psychedelia than a Euro-hippy exploitation movie, it has to be said.
The hypnotic nature of HFS’s music is apparent from the start, hanging off Maria Charles’ soaring and ethereal tonsil-flexing. Clear as a glass bell, Maria’s voice is a thing of chiming beauty, a modern take on Jacqui McShee, a comparison that comes readily to mind on the gorgeous shifting sands of Circles In Halftone. The song breaks out right near the end and briefly recalls very early psychedelic Echo And The Bunnymen.
The generally acid-folk vibe is given a Krautrock twist on the title track, with a repetitive synth figure to a motorik beat backing the vocals which would not sound out of place on a Harmonia album. I don’t know about “a trip from which you can never return”, but the cumulative effect of Curious Yellow the song, and the album is to induce a relaxed, almost trance-like state, all without resorting to meandering ambient doodling, too!
The longest song here, at a tad over seven minutes is the drifting 1000 Years, which Maria intones over a slowly evolving and very minimalist backing, evoking a blissful fragility. Plenty of reverb is applied to the guitars and keyboards as the tune gently stretches itself awake, with Maria riding the vocal thermals above.
Although they had a completely different sound and vastly disparate influences, a group who strove to induce a similar blissed-out but altogether darker state were Galaxie 500. Similar to that group HFS will be an acquired taste to those who appreciate a bit more energy. As if realising this Fragmenting Sons finds the accelerator pedal, but fades out almost as soon as it hits top gear, which is a shame as I would have like to hear this band do a full-on “wig out” as they once said in psych circles.
Squaretaker ends back in hypno mood, but with the addition of some spiky guitar lines from James and is probably the most “rock” song here, and is maybe a pointer for the future. Noisy dissonance combines with Maria’s multi-tracked voice to great effect, and this is my favourite song on the record.
In conclusion, Curious Yellow is a slightly frustrating but still enjoyable album that maybe fell into a trap of self-hypnosis, only breaking out in the last three songs. I would like to see the band press it to the floor on the next one!
01. Digitalis (4:07)
02. Circles In Halftone (4:35)
03. Magpies (Against The Sun) (2:46)
04. Vapour (4:00)
05. Curious Yellow (5:47)
06. Komorebi (1:15)
07. 1000 Years (7:15)
08. Fragmenting Sons (4:41)
09. Squaretaker (4:11)
Total Time – 38:37
Maria Charles – Vocals & Guitar
Jeff Green – Bass, Keyboards & Percussion
James McKeown – Guitar, Keyboards & Percussion
Matt Rich – Keyboards & Samples
Aidan Searle – Drums & Percussion
Record Label: Esoteric Antenna
Catalogue#: EANTCD 1034
Year Of Release: 2014