Followers of Joe Haege (Menomena, 31Knots) and Corrina Repp having been waiting for their first collaborative album for some time. But they might not have been expecting it to sound quite like this.
As stalwarts of the Portland folk scene, their coupling promised to be the birth of an Oregon supergroup; a cosy, delicate affair to warm any campfire. But the pair, accompanied by long term collaborators Toussaint Perrault and Liza Rietz, seem to be using their side project as a way of channelling darker thoughts.
Twinkling glockenspiels and wistfully strummed guitars give way to a thousand different drum sounds, each more menacing than the last. An unsettling blend of mysterious organic sounds and thrashing industrial noise, with Hearts On Hold Tu Fawning have crafted the unlikely combination of grunge-folk.
The release comes as the band prepares for a European tour, which includes just one date in the UK, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the four-piece translate such a chaotic record into a live show. From the very beginning Hearts On Hold is deceptively busy.
Opening track Multiply A House introduces their dark, bold ambitions with booming drums, piercing, eerie horns and a chanted chorus. Similarly, Diamond In The Forest opens with a menacing, stalking humming that gives way Repp’s voice, which prettily weaves around a creeping piano before being elbowed out by a haunting full-band chant.
Apples And Oranges is an unexpected delight. Haege and Repp’s voices entwine, hers rising above his as they purr “Apples and oranges, What’s the difference, They’re both just going to rot,” in a wobbling, tear jerking piano duet.
There are a fair few forgettable tracks and trimming this collection down to an EP may have been a wise move. But if their ambition becomes distorted at times, they hit the nail on the head with single I Know You Now. An utterly gorgeous, crackling, 1920s themed epic, it’s chaotic and clattering, with garage guitars and Victorian organs battling for space. It’s multi-layered and oozes despair, desperation and an uneasy repressed sense of romance. Repp’s voice is eerie and heartbreaking and, as Sleigh Bells meets Portishead, it’s by no means an easy listen.
I Know You Now is their showcase piece, the song they should base their future efforts on. Hopefully Hearts On Hold is just the beginning for a band far more exciting than any of its members’ previous incarnations.