Bear in Heaven, I Love You, It’s Cool
Drawing bath the ethereal curtain
In rock’s winding pantheon of absurd album titles (Limp Bizkit’s regrettable Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, Guns N’ Roses’ puzzling The Spaghetti Incident?), Brooklyn electro-prog outfit Bear in Heaven earned their coveted spot with the 2009 mouthful Beast Rest Forth Mouth. Maybe the obtuse wordplay was intentional, just for the sake of being weird. Maybe there’s some deeply profound significance buried in the album’s synth-driven wash of sound. But if nothing else, Beast Rest Forth Mouth (the phrase) mirrored the band’s alien sonic stranglehold. Since it was often tough to pick out frontman Jon Philpot’s minimalistic lyrics from behind their wall of synths and tribal percussion, the title seemed intended to prove a point: Forget about literal meaning, and concentrate on the music’s mystical, intangible full-body rush.
Now cemented as indie rock’s mysterious cosmic travelers, Bear in Heaven have drawn back that ethereal curtain quite a bit on their third album, I Love You, It’s Cool. Maybe the title wasn’t intended specifically as a mission statement, but that direct emotion makes a lot of sense in the context of the music. Where Beast Rest pulsed and crawled, its Coke-fizz synth texture and pounding tom-toms swirling into hallucinogenic expanses, I Love You uses the same instrumental template to point listeners toward a rave-ish dancefloor. Bear in Heaven haven’t morphed into a pop band, per se, but the arrangements are noticeably de-cluttered and polished, with Philpot’s high-arching tenor freed from the garish reverb that previously kept his melodies at arm’s length. His words are almost shockingly simple at times (“If you could dance with me, I think you will like my moves,” he sings on the tense, cinematic night-club nightmare “The Reflection of You”), and that immediacy works well within the music’s rejuvenated atmospheres, giving tracks like the dazzling “Kiss Me Crazy” a delicate focus. Even the ambience is pretty. The buzzing “Space Remains” augments Joe Stickney’s cascading rhythms with digital handclaps and slick electro whooshes, Philpot leading the charge in a hypnotized wash of melody: a wide-eyed robot floating unconsciously into a magical jungle of beat.
“Let’s get loaded and make some strange things come true,” Philpot sings on the rapturous “Sinful Nature.” A mission still very much accomplished.