It may have taken a while for everyone to get over Seattle, Montreal, Brooklyn and Austin, but there’s another corner of the country that’s finally getting its due in terms of fertile new music activity: the Southeast. Granted, Athens, Georgia has long been legendary for producing R.E.M., the dB’s, and the B-52s, not to mention several Elephant 6 bands, but influence is spreading. With Atlanta metal bands like Mastodon and Baroness gaining acclaim, Florida’s Black Kids getting hipsters dancing, Georgian noisemakers Black Lips and Deerhunter getting down and dirty, not to mention Outkast and the, unfortunately, now-incarcerated T.I., the South is giving the rest of the country a run for its money. Lesser-known but still worthy of similar accolades is Bear In Heaven, a Georgia band with fluid movements and mysterious sounds, with influences seemingly familiar, yet difficult to place.
On the one hand, Bear In Heaven displays the density of My Bloody Valentine, heavily indulging in shoegazer tendencies without ever delving into the lazy act of Loveless Xerox copying. Yet there’s a post-rock sensibility to the band as well, with meandering guitars, vast shifts in tempo and volume, ever-changing structures and a Tortoise like sense of melody. And then there’s a messy, celebratory, Broken Social Scene-like pop bent, everything thrown in at once, and all of it sticking, for the most part. Bear In Heaven is all of these things, and yet none of them exactly. The GA foursome never quite commits to just one approach, and this is what makes Red Bloom of the Boom a successful outing.
The effects, be they synth or guitar (exactly which is hard to make out), that open leadoff track “Bag of Bags” are hypnotic and direct, shuddering and dense like an ominous toxic fog. A jazzy, insistent drum shuffle drives the song toward an intense instrumental section, which drops out temporarily to allow the whimsical verse to take over, vocalist Jon Philpot airily crooning like The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop. With “Slow Gold,” the band opts for a moody, gothic new wave pop gloss, one that escalates toward a majestic rock anthem. “Werewolf” is nowhere near its ferocious namesake, instead a shimmering, graceful, ambient pop tune.
As if their inability to remain in one musical realm too long wasn’t clear enough, Bear In Heaven drift into eerie, electronic heaviness on “Fraternal Noon,” synths throbbing erratically like pipe organs of the damned. Closing song “For Beauty” is more soulful and less cluttered by sputtering sounds and distortion, sounding rather like a Zero 7 or Thievery Corporation outtake, without so many beats. Bear In Heaven cover a wide range of ground on Red Bloom of the Boom and never seem to circle back to the same spot. Georgia may be where these four gents return at the end of the day, but you’re more likely to find them floating in outer space.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.