Harmonious Bec

Her Strange Dreams

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Beginning with the type of slow, reverb-heavy moody hush that could suggest anything from Bristol's rock and hip-hop scenes from 1995 through to endless numbers of cassette-only releases in 2010, Her Strange Dreams from the start is all about contemplative atmospherics that can just as easily be background as something to explicitly concentrate on. But in ways, that's the secret to Harmonious Bec's work -- while the changes are subtle throughout the album, it's the small details given to the arrangements that make the album an engaging listen as much as it is a relaxing one. Not everything is next-room-over echo, either -- the beginning of "Funny Hierophant" is all precise focus, string samples and glitch chop-ups over skittering beats that then bring in the warmer flow, while the quick piano parts that start and define "Cryptomeria Rain" swerve gently between slight echo and layered overdubs. Meanwhile, "Solitary Bonze Prayer" evolves into a careening wash of noise that still has a clear core vocal section providing an anchor. At some points there's almost the feeling of a soundtrack to a bummer of a romantic movie, as with the quieter parts of "Falling Ash Plume" with its string and woodwind orchestrations along with the lead keyboards, but then something like a big drum sample will appear and take things to a different realm. If the lingering impact of 1990s self-consciously experimental techno is clear -- one can hear Boards of Canada above all else in the combination of winsome delight and moodiness -- there's enough individual flair and character in the arrangements that it's not simply re-creation.

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