Album Reviews

Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home

(Sonic Cathedral) UK release date: 21 October 2013

Black Hearted Brother - Stars Are Our Home Stars Are Our Home by Black Hearted Brother is an album of flowing, interlinked sonic beauty that owes much to the long term relationships held between the band members. Out of the three, Neil Halstead will be the most familiar name to many due to his successful recent solo career and distinguished past, but the contributions of Mark Von Hoen and Nick Holton are equally significant.

There’s been a fair amount of collaboration and crossing of paths over the years – Holton, of Holton’s Opulent Oog and Coley Park, produced Halstead’s excellent Palindrome Hunches album from last year, whilst Von Hoen has appeared on earlier Halstead solo albums (as well as taking on co-production duties on various Mojave 3 albums). This history is successfully translated and conveyed into something new and fresh over the twelve tracks on Stars Are Our Home, synthesising their varied strengths into one fluid whole. The album has been patiently developed and refined over the last few years and it shows.

The name of the album is apt, suggesting sounds that are astral and distant yet also infused with warmth and moments of welcoming familiarity. The gentle motorik rhythm of the title track ushers in the album, developing in expansive fashion. The first sign of the variety contained on the album comes with the barbed guitar distortion of I Don’t Mean To Wonder which comes across as a sort of Slowdive with added bite (Loveless era My Bloody Valentine is another valid reference point). It registers the biggest impact in terms of sheer power and volume, although the wired, psychedelic heaviness of Oh Crust and muscular guitars of My Baby Just Sailed Away that appear later on battle each other out for second place. And yet, it is some of the more considered, reflective moments that truly stand out on Stars Are Our Home.

A pulsating, glowing rhythm may run centrally through Got Your Love but Halstead’s heartfelt vocals give it a softer, contemplative edge. As he sings “I’ve got your love, here in my heart” it’s an eminently suitable candidate for those moments where retreat from the outside world into the soothing sphere of music seems the only available course of action. Similar is experienced on Take Heart, which sees Halstead offering up more lyrical poignancy whilst also being an example of how the album maybe works best when the respective talents of those involved achieve the greatest equilibrium. It is a quiet oasis in amongst the denser, more pressing sounds of the album.

Time In The Machine is an example of such moments, as vocals and guitars gradually converge until it’s difficult to clearly isolate each element. It is also one of the tracks that is closest in feel to some of the more abstract electronic music Von Hoen has recently released under his own name, as well as part of Locust and Seefeel.

If I Was Here To Change Your Mind is reminiscent of early Spiritualized records with its loosely imparted, hazily narcotic vocal. Following track UFO offers an immediate contrast, with Halstead’s idyllic vocal floating in on a sea of guitars. We’re suddenly back in classic Mojave 3 territory, the track serving as a reminder of the brilliant, underrated albums released by that band. Look Out Here They Come ends the album on a sweet, almost innocent note, putting the seal on a musical journey that surprises, rewards and comforts in equal measure.

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Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home

Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home