Faces On Film
1811 14th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Highasakite make pop music, but an adventurous brand of indie pop full of contrasts. Once you hear Highasakite you'll wonder how you ever got by without them; theirs is an endless sound oscillating between density and spaciousness. Debut album "Silent Treatment" is filled with radical texture and startling immediacy, and Ingrid Helene Håvik's idiosyncratic vocals perfectly join the albums eccentricity and accessibility.
The band members now all reside in Oslo, however the origins of the group can be found at the Trondheim Jazz Conservatory, where singer and songwriter Håvik met drummer Trond Bersu and began to write, record and perform together. However, the pair felt that they needed an extra something to give their performances the sound they desired. As a result, Øystein Skar on synthesizers was added, before the more recent arrivals of Marte Eberson, also on synths, and Kristoffer Lo on guitar, flugabone and percussion. All of this has combined to give the band a richer texture and more potent sound.
"Silent Treatment," produced by acclaimed Norwegian producer Kåre Chr. Vestrheim, is perceived by Håvik as a very romantic album, with many of its themes existing in the realm of relationships behind closed doors. Yet for all the lyrical depth and layered compositions, the one thing that Highasakite do exceedingly well is enveloping choruses, which instantly take root and resonate, perhaps no more so than in lead single "Since Last Wednesday."
Håvik cites Mary Margaret O'Hara, Fever Ray and Diamanda Galás as some of her favourite musicians, as well as being touched by Bulgarian vocal choirs. Many other non-musical reference points have helped inform "Silent Treatment," such as Håvik's time in New York and Istanbul.
Highasakite have spent the last few months wowing audiences at numerous international festivals, including this year's OYA Festival.
Faces On Film
Mike Fiore dreams big.
It's not just as a result of having his first Faces On Film release, The Troubles, receive such high praise from the Boston music press. Surely, having critic James Reed of the Boston Globe refer to your record as one of the top albums of 2008, saying it "sounds like a private affair straight from the heart," allows for sound sleep. It was dreams of a different sort, however, that fueled his expansive and evolved second release, Some Weather.
"I was having these dreams and they were all similar and they all happened around the same time, within a week or a week and a half or something," recalls the winner of 2009's Boston Phoenix award for "Best Singer/Songwriter. "It seemed like I was having these dreams every night."
Those dreams, with their recurring themes of physical movement and personal exploration as well as the ramifications of both, inspire the rootsy fragility of Some Weather. Fiore's vocals find a warm home drenched in reverb as his latest co-conspirators (guitarist, Dave Hinckley; and organist/percussionist, Elio DeLuca;) flesh out the singer's guitar playing and moody lyrical musings with suitably subtle touches.
"It would have been hard to not write a song about these things," he says of the nocturnal journeys that were the impetus for an eloquent examination of self. "It was the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep and the first thing I'd think of when I woke up, It was hard to shake."
The result is a ten song lyrical collection of studies on the pro's and cons of subconscious hitchhiking set to the same musical sensibilities that had previously earned Fiore tours alongside The Veils, Foreign Born, and Freelance Whales as well as slots on stages with the likes of Blitzen Trapper, Akron/Family, and A.A. Bondy. While Fiore's themes of the road less traveled and the obstacles encountered on that route are seemingly timeless, it too often feels like an eternity since they were delivered in such an intelligent manner.
The journey kicks off with, "Knot In The Vine," a young person's first steps outside the comfort zone that Fiore explains, "Is about anything that's preventing the natural course, whether it's imposed by your self or somebody else." From this impressive jumping off point it is full speed ahead, with the understated yet upbeat, "Harlem Roses," offering the first glance at familiarity.
"That feeling when you're young and sort of shaping your identity," he says of the song. "You're a participant in creating your own identity and it's sort of unique to when you're young. It's being reminded of that feeling without going back to it."
It is perhaps on, "Great Move North," the album's structural centerpiece, that the importance of surmounting those bumps in the road, even those one is personally responsible for, is most successfully recounted. Fiore readily reports that the the song is based in feelings of "growth, seeing the path, feeling invigorated by what you're encountering. But also feeling mortal, and aware of the magnitude of everything."
Whatever solace might have been achieved in the "Great Move North" proves short-lived however as the following, "Make Nice," finds our hero questioning how many of the important people in his life have been left covered in ash by the bridges he's burned. Before the end of the trip both, "Under Newry," and, "Bride," investigate the dangers of temporary comfort to a traveler whose journey is yet to be completed. Which, of course, begs the question, 'Does this journey have a defined conclusion?'
"I have never been terribly attracted to things with a thesis statement or some kind of tangible morale. It's just not what I find interesting," Fiore states without hesitation before candidly admitting. "I don't know that I am very aware of being impacted by something in the moment but for me these things all ended up making sense. I just know the result."
Even in his youth, Fiore had an early inkling these were the sort of results he would strive to achieve. "Even before I had a guitar, I'd draw pictures of stages and equipment," he remembers of his childhood in Rochester, N.Y. "It's been all I've cared about for as long as I can remember."
"When I got to be 16, I got a guitar, and started playing with a friend who had been playing for a while," he recounts of his musical coming-of-age. "That summer there was a neighborhood where I was spending a lot of time because I was dating a girl who lived there, and had two or three friends on the same street. One of those friends' dad played guitar, and would always have people around his house playing and singing songs. It was all older guys, there would be five or six of them around every night, all summer. And my first introduction to playing music with a group of people was with them, learning and playing these songs. I still play with a few of them when I go home."
With a busy year supporting, "Some Weather," assembling itself by the hour, Fiore will likely not be sleeping very many nights back in Rochester, or consecutively in the same place. Yet the inspiration of slumber is not one he's entirely abandoned.
"Even before this dream thing happened to me, I was always drawn to that moment between being awake and falling asleep," he admits with a smile. "You're not asleep but you're almost there and everything is sort of swirling together, trying to get underneath that first layer."