This bear might be in heaven, but it wont ever die. Thats the main point to take away from the UK hard-copy release of these Brooklyn indie-rockers sophomore LP. Where their dreamy 2009 peers Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective have long since gone overplayed, Beast Rest Forth Mouth still sounds fresh and oracular, simultaneously pleading and championing for a shift in sonic texture that now stands in relief of other 2010 sibilators like Beach House, Liars, or Yeasayer.
Using Beach Houses Teen Dream as a point of reference a year later, its hard not to see Victoria LeGrands haunting, sometimes mannish vocals as a response to Bear in Heavens sometimes womanly vocalist Jon Philpot. Even if you dont hear it, its hard to deny the pounding rhythm elaborated on at the end of lead track Beast in Peace. Its at that point where Bear in Heavens combined guitars, bass, drums, and meandering vocals cohere, and in spite of its title, its a rampaging elephant of an opener.
But Bear in Heavens lyricism describes grandiose themes like Ultimate Satisfaction and Lovesick Teenagers. The latter, their lead single, resounds of ruin and desolation: Drowning away from the rubble Before we crash into the ground, while, as one fan pointed out, the former could conceivably be about masturbation (references abound in the lyrics). Bear in Heaven isnt easily identified and in many ways that seems to be the point. The band doesnt make pop songs per se, and it doesnt make dance-y music, despite pronounced, crushing beats that predict not necessarily the energy, but certainly the strength of Brooklyn buzzers Sleigh Bells.
Its also important to note that this elephant has a full, unrelenting backing band. The trick is in their mix of live and electronic instrumentation, which blend and fill each other out in the production to form a sound that never feels tapped. The key is in the way they supplement each other. When the many drum-fills in Casual Goodbye audibly give way to light cymbal taps, Bear in Heaven pulls an 80s keyboard line into the mix, highlighting Philpot singing about crash[ing] into the ground. At the end, the closing track ends abruptly as soon as its chorus does.
Like Liars, Bear in Heaven had this latest album remixed, packaging it as an exclusive free addition to its US reissue. Like Liars, their remixed edition was criticized for its perceived boredom. Like Liars, Bear in Heaven had a plethora of guests on its remix, including High Places and the dude from Jesu. Interestingly enough, like Liars, this remix album was kind of boring (a) compared to most other remix albums, and (b) compared to the original. Whats funniest is that it seems plenty dont realize how boring both these bands really are: They focus on texture and landscape, not on pulling the dance out of hipsters the world over.
And therein lies Bear in Heavens mystique. For the most part, it comes across as a band without an agenda, and yet one whose work has coded so many other artists in its scene. Beast Rest Forth Mouth takes more listening than is comfortable sometimes, but its sound is nonetheless physical, and personified through its incessancy. Casual Goodbye closes Beast Rest Forth Mouth in the best way possible because if it wasnt abrupt, it would lose steam. And that cant happen.