4 out of 5
Produced by: Doug Scharin
Evolving from the minimalist electronics of Egg into the propulsive jazz of Our Point of Departure, the next generation of HiM took clearer shape on Many In High Places Are Not Well, fusing the light groove of Mice Parade member Adam Sharp’s influence with a lush, worldly sound informed by session work from several Chicago scenesters (Fred Erskine; Rob Mazurek) and haunting, sing-song vocals. We see the more upbeat side of post-rock in latter-day Tortoise and Sam Prekop and the like, but I wasn’t quite prepared for where HiM mastermind Doug Scharin was planning on taking his project, and High Places was rather indescribable when I first put it on. It still is, to a certain extent: Scharin’s primarily known as a drummer, but he’s careful not to necessarily showcase it; the album’s dense tracks are swirled with so much other busyness (carefully orchestrated, of course), that it’s easy to overlook how well Doug is playing through and around the instrumentation, which features layers of various horns, and strings, and electronics. The collective ends up playing compositions that definitely touch on jazz – Perspective From A Slow Spin – or rock – Elope and Secede – or electro-groove – the title track – and so on – but not in a settled fashion that makes it clear how to classify it.
Bear in mind this is all knitted together ridiculously smoothly, and maybe to a fault. The tracks have relative peaks – surprises during which a cool-down will be cut into with an odd beat change-up or newly introduced sound – but there’s a general m.o. of keeping it moving, and keeping the vibe ‘drifting,’ so we often found HiM morphing to absorb the new sounds as soon as they’re heard.
Many In High Places is thus an absorbing experience itself, something you can put on and easily – and willfully – get lost in.