Hey Mother Death - Hey Mother Death EP [Self Release - 2012]
This tape is packaged in a rather extravagant, many-panelled inlay; printed in artful black and white and listing all the lyrics. This, plus the printed cassette, adds up to a very professional release; and something which Hey Mother Death presumably have very high hopes for. The tape has three tracks, all leaning towards the shorter side of things and all quite similar.
The first track starts with a horrible drum machine - not something to inspire confidence - and then precedes to add a lounge-y casio bass-line, noir-ish reverb, dub piano and guitar noise reverberations. Once the female vocals come in, theres a fair sense of what Hey Mother Death are about. Despite the colourful list of ingredients I have just made, the overall sound is essentially one of dark, gothic cabaret; with spoken vocals utilising french and english lyrics. Its a “quiet” music, not given to showy gestures; instead it concentrates on atmosphere and feel. The two remaining tracks are more droney in nature; further removed from “cabaret”, but still suffering from that kind of “arch” delivery. The first builds from a rather sparse beginning to a rather weak crescendo, whilst the second combines keyboard choir drones with guitar doom-isms and swirling feedback - but neither really catch the ear. There is a fair abundance of “noise” on offer, from the scraped, bowed and delay-ed guitar; but it never fully dispels the sense of theatricality or cabaret. Much of this is due to the vocal, which is spoken - and often spoken just above a whisper; this adds a weight and portentousness to the pieces which the combined elements just aren’t up to - they just sound rather “weak” in comparison. At worst, the vocal reminds the ear of painfully pretentious perfume adverts on television.
These three tracks from Hey Mother Death are “pleasant” enough; they’re nice slow rides, but theres a lack of substance for my mind. Certainly the pieces aim at a kind of ethereality, but regardless, there’s a lack of anything tangible for the ear - they rather sound like interludes on an album, not an album in themselves. The vocals add a pretentiousness that the backing can’t deliver on, and the lyrics - which are very poetic and romantic (despite quoting from “Its A Long Way To Tipperary”) - raise this expectation even higher. The inlay describes the tracks as recorded “spontaneously”, and there are certainly a couple of tentative or abandoned ideas in the pieces that suggest they were improvised. Music with spoken word vocals is very hard to get right, and improvising it just increases this; so whilst this is a brave effort from Hey Mother Death, it just doesn’t have enough to encourage many listens… Martin P