Curiously enough, Marc Bianchi, a.k.a. Her Space Holiday, started out in the 90s hardcore scene in California, playing in various bands until eventually settling into a solo act and delving into, at the time, peculiar if not appealing, aimless excursions in ‘soft, sweet electronics’ by the end of the decade. But throughout his run as Her Space Holiday — has it really been 10 years since the project began? — Bianchi has almost consistently demonstrated a talent for affective, and occasionally heartfelt, storytelling in albums such as Home Is Where You Hang Yourself (2000), The Young Machines (2003), and The Past Presents The Future (2005). Even as he branched out into other sounds, Bianchi’s early atmospheric, ambient-influenced compositions successfully complemented his relatively simple lyrics on life and love. In some of his best moments, as in “Home Is Where You Hang Yourself,” Bianchi sounded like an equally jaded but soft and charming Jesus and Mary Chain, while in “Japanese Gum,” we heard where newer acts like Foxes in Fiction possibly took their aesthetic cues.
It’s unfortunate, then, that every song on Her Space Holiday, Bianchi’s final album as Her Space Holiday, is intended to encompass “all of the varied sonic themes that have spanned across his entire catalog” but ends up sounding like a mixture between a failed imitation of his past work and a bland formalization of it all. Bianchi has been increasingly dabbling in orchestral compositions (with the requisite instrumentation), but here the approach just strips Her Space Holiday of its signature electronic style. Opening tracks “Anything For Progress” and “Black Cat Balloons” immediately set the standard for what is to follow: while the songs are meant to sound fun, playful, childlike, and sweet, they ultimately all sound contrived.
To be sure, the so-called evolution of any given band’s sound should not be problematic in and of itself. In fact, Bianchi’s use of wind and string instruments is reminiscent of Ryan Graveface of Dreamend’s increased reliance on strings and acoustics, particularly in his last release, So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite. For Graveface, his reorientation actually corresponds positively to Dreamend’s long-time dabblings in country and folk, not to mention their visual presentation. In Bianchi’s case, however, the replacement of an near-signature electronic sound has resulted in the kind of phony fodder found in mainstream label samplers. As a result, the songs sound particularly restrained, which is in stark contrast to the airy and expansive sonic backdrop that Bianchi previously employed so well.
So am I mistaken, or am I really supposed to picture the so-called bright green pastures, the sun shining, the kids skipping along? Is there anything else? Looking back at what Bianchi has accomplished with Her Space Holiday, it would seem that there has to be. But no, little birds on branches don’t chirp, and sweetness and cuteness reveal themselves to be contingent to some degree on the perception of “authenticity” or perhaps even sincerity, both sadly lacking here. This is not to say that Her Space Holiday does not have its share of bright or interesting spots — “Shonanoka” makes ample use of the album’s theme of elaborate instrumentation to positive effect, and “Ghost in the Garden” harks back to past albums while resting comfortably on this new album — but most of the songs here aren’t even good enough to be considered for a knockoff commercial targeted at the ‘indie-inclined’ twenty-something demographic.