HiM – New Features

4 out of 5

Label: BubbleCore Records

Produced by: Doug Scharin

What started as atmospheric post-rock and went to post-jazz madness during the Perishable years has morphed, yet again, incorporating a more laid back sensibility and some Afro-cuban beats that would point the way to later, world-music inspired discs…

This crossroads, though, fittingly titled ‘New Features,’ is prime HiM, for as much as I dig the subsequent albums, they tend to fall into more of a jam sensibility, which is curbed here for an amazing mix of styles and a showcase of skills that still somewhat latch on to a post-rock mentality, harking back to the genre from which many of Scharin’s past bands came.

Bookended by two amazing and expansive tracks – Magnified Features and Sea Level – HiM flows seamlessly between each song, shifting from the energetic, dual-drum kit opener to the looser, slow and subtle build of In Transition.  Both this track and its followup, Out Here, follow a slightly more traditional jazz sensibility, but relistens bring out the nuances, pitter-patted lightly atop one another throughout.  Clouds kicks off with dreamy dub, hitting a hard stop midway to offer a more guitar-centric, open-ended groove, which carries forth into Were Once.  Closer Sea Level is an absolute joy of beats, the most head-bobbing, immersive thing I’ve heard in quite some time and a fantastic way to close out the experience.

Regarding that ‘hard stop’ – that is one of the oddities that pops up on a couple of tracks.  While going from song to song plays out without missing a beat, the group chooses to make some of these complete change-ups mid-song, or to let more notable moments drift out and then sort of wishy-washy it before returning back to that initial riff (which occurs during ‘In Transition’s 18 minutes).  The album is otherwise such a unified experience, and so continually involving, that these moments – especially when unexpected on an initial listen – stick out quite a bit.  The highlights absolutely keep you in the game, though, guaranteeing subsequent spins and warming you up to those shifts and stops, turning ‘New Features’ into one of HiM’s most lasting listens.