HYHT is a Portland, Maine-based quintet that gigged for several years before the release of their Ep1 collection in November, 2020. They call the four-song collection “a subtle response to the times.” We at Divide and Conquer were fortunate enough to have our ears treated to a review copy.
The band’s core sound for Ep1 is centered by bass and drums with complementary electric guitars in each ear. Keyboards fill the space in between, and provide the glue that gives the tracks an easy, almost atmospheric feel. While the feel is smooth and easy, it’s never lackadaisical, and the arrangements are pleasingly devoid of bloat or indulgence. Each part contributes and is performed with a purpose. The music is very tonal with pop sensibilities, rooted around regular major (or relative minor) scales; any dissonance is in passing and won’t upset the overall pleasantness of your listen. The band does employ some odd meters, but they do so with skillful grace, fitting the mood and groove of the piece.
Ep1 kicks off with a slow keyboard build into the mid-tempo instrumental “September 21st.” It’s a pleasure to hear real drums--with the keyboard start, loops and programs were certainly possible. Those drums set a 7/4 rhythm that flows well with the chiming guitar parts and layers of diaphanous keyboards. Even better, the song has utterly nothing to do with the played-into-the-ground Earth, Wind, and Fire song that references the same date.
The next three tracks all include vocals (both male and female) and continue the mid-tempo, smooth vibe. “Bloodletting” features some swooping slide-guitar effects, mixed low and deep, that are a fine complement to the vocals, as well as a solid guitar lead on the outro. “Marble”--this reviewer’s favorite track--has terrific guitar interplay and dynamics changes. The closer “Atlantis II” deploys some piano sounds with its odd (15/8) meter and the band builds an epic ending around one of those piano themes.
Ep1 is a lovingly crafted disc. You could spin it Monday morning at the office as you ease into the week, or Friday evening as you wind down; in either setting, it’s worth the twenty minutes. Enjoy!
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