steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Gates of Heaven

"Sea Hell" CD

Culture Heart

Genre: glitch-folk, experimental


Sep 19 2008

Sea Hell likes to tease. The stark beeps and boops introducing us to opener "Thin Air" gradually build and crescendo into a layered, throbbing anthem, hinting at a relatively majestic album to come. The song that follows is the boring and annoying "Blackout Babies", dissonant Casio-pop that deliberately avoids all the minimalist cuteness that makes Casio endearing. The album continues to flip-flop between arresting and disgusting for the next seven tracks. It certainly has potential.

The album's unrefined in the way that is not super-popular these days. That is to say it owes more to Akron/Family's howling spirituality than HEALTH's cynical electro-pop. This is good, because it makes for a unique sound, but also problematic, as Gates of Heaven tread untrodden turf on this album and take a few missteps. Stuttering eight-minute plodder "Brain Cloud" is particularly unlistenable.

It's when the Gates are most confident in their delivery that they write the nicest songs. "Mande Burung" is the album's finest moment, a triumphant ode which proudly asserts that "Mande Burung will come out tonight" if we are virtuous, or something. Album closer "Beard of Fire" treads even more familiar turf, letting the Death By Audio synths finally get overshadowed by the piano and guitar (what're those again?). Even more shockingly, it features singing that doesn't sound like it comes out of a plugged-nose vocoder. As a result "Beard of Fire" sounds good, but generic, and consequently makes it seem like you've heard something special on the rest of Sea Hell. Despite all the overstylized fuzz and lazy recording, there is a lot to appreciate on Sea Hell. Gates of Heaven could put out a great album, and they could also disappear like so many Brooklyn kids fucking around on synthesizers. We'll wait and see.

gates of heaven's myspace


youuuuuuuutube!: "blackout babies" video

Andrew Kai-Yin MacKenzie

[Vitals: 10 tracks, distributed by the label, released April 2008]