His Name Is Alive Xmmer

[Silver Mountain; 2007]

Styles: multi-tasking pop with a penchant for experimenting
Others: This Mortal Coil, Ian Masters

Cliché as it may be to say that the music of His Name Is Alive is as haunted as ever, it is nevertheless fact. Their works possess a thaumaturgical touch that elevates even their most forthright romances with pop music. This ability to address the pop beast while simultaneously dipping into diverse stylings and experimentalism is a complicated practice that has left many bands in flames on the runway before liftoff, but the enviable balance HNIA achieve in their collages is a testament to their success. Even their earliest 4AD works, often chastised as misguided, understood this necessary symmetry, albeit perhaps weighed down by a bit of over-ambition -- though I am a fan of both. Indeed, Xmmer arguably stands as their most notable actualization of this practice.

HNIA actively address the beauty typically incorporated into their recordings, aware of where preciousness could rear its head and compromise the effect. The emotive restraint of "What Color Was The Blood?", for example, becomes its strength: a simple martial rhythm is placed upon a shruti box drone and accented by Andrea's remote phrasing, while never ascending or collapsing under the weight of unnecessary histrionics. It plays out like a Ming-liang Tsai film, where rewards are revealed only to the patient who engage in the hypnotic exchange with the secrets invested in the static presentation. This sentiment can even be extended to "Sangaree," which, despite its intrinsic yearnings to be sonically upfront, maintains a relatively fixed state.

HNIA also present a soft, dream-like focus on Xmmer, even when indulging their pop muse most openly. The exquisite "How Dark Is Your Dark Side" and "Come To Me" are prime examples. Though curiously sensual and darkly intimate, they still linger in shadows, separated and oddly detached. Not to be accused of being too introverted, they choose to judiciously extend themselves further outward with the relative brashness of tracks "Come Out The Wilderness" and "The Wolf Put His Mouth On Me." "Go To Hell Mountain," however, remains the most immediate track on offer, with its sweet, chiming pop-soul pinnings never wandering too far from the defiantly singular terrain that unites the album's constellations.

Xmmer's grace is found within the threads woven in hushed exchanges between instruments and voice, little mysteries that resist definition. It is this secret universe that has endeared them so greatly to their followers through the years. Although occupying such an insular fold tends to become detrimental to artists (à la Prince, et al.), Defever manages to steer clear of this pitfall by remaining open to disparate influences around him -- whether from fellow musicians and artists or from experiences -- incorporating them mindfully by never losing the original self. HNIA have yet to cheapen their legacy to my knowledge, and frankly, if any evidence exists to the contrary, please don't bring it to my attention. I prefer to remain in my lucid dream state.

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