Menu | Rating System | Guest Book
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)

  Under the Waterline  
  Hybrid Electric  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  bill E. joel  

Below the Waterline is a vehicle to showcase Hinterland's vocalist, Michaela Galloway. While she sings in a wide range of styles which bring to mind Alison Shaw or Kate Bush at times, she ultimately cannot resist the draw of the diva demonstrating her pitch and range rather than presenting a coherent and cohesive sound.

The album features a live sounding instrumental mix of guitars, bass and drums, presented in a spare and clear setting. Occasionally augmented by restrained keyboards and woodwinds. Slow to moderate tempos predominate. Despite three of the five musicians having guitar credits, solos and flashy leads are largely absent. The most successful tracks on this release are those that mesh this background with an appropriate lead vocal. For instance, Red-Light Camera features the most restrained and least overdubbed vocal performance and is the standout for that reason. Wasntevenwinded similarly builds slowly; a brooding minor key dominates and the voice blends in, effectively establishing a Gothic tone.

For the rest of the disc, however, the atmospheric setting suffers from the injection of Galloway's mannered, multitracked voice, as it quivers and quavers. She hits as many long sustained notes for as long as possible, whether or not they fit the mood and tone set by the band, and regardless of whether or not they add anything to the song. The dead giveaway here is the thank you in the credits to the Vancouver Opera Company. You can just picture her in a Valkyrie getup, horned helmet and all. Therefore, Below the Waterline ends up sounding like a day off from rehab on a tour of the helium factory. Grating. The disc really reaches a nadir with Tiger Tiger, featuring a precious, breathy "little girl lost in a cruel world" routine reminiscent of the worst of The Cranes.

For some, the display of technique is a means to its own end. Here, however, the annoying display of virtuousity is compounded by its clash with the underlying backing tracks. They are carefully put together, with restraint as the keyword and using subtle instrumental touches to establish a consistent mood, tone and direction. The result of adding the overly mannenered and overly dubbed vocals to that base is like crinoline on cowpie. They just don't go together.

This is not meant to disrespect the band, who are clearly capable, but who are also working within the constraints of the scheme for Below the Waterline. The guitar style calls to mind David Gilmour or Robert Fripp in its repeated figures and ability to focus on sounds rather than flashy technique for its own sake. The band seems like they are just waiting to bust out and free themselves from the restraints imposed upon them. Portrait of my Invention in particular features a fiery, passionate performance. The contrast between the verses and the chorus defines the flaws of this disc as restrained, appropriate verses are offset and dragged down by the caterwauling chorus.

This disc sinks below the waterline gradually, as what was intended to be atmosperic becomes monotonous and plodding. And excessive virtuousity becomes a millstone around the neck that even the most dogged band cannot support.

Related Links:

None available


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.