Local post-rock band Hiboux (pronounced ee – boo. The French word for owls) have worked hard to get to this stage of their career, cultivating a following as they wrote and recorded the songs on this, their first album, Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up.
They struck me as talented when I saw them open for Tortoise last year [Tortoise live review], and this début release has only cemented that opinion.
Before we start discussing the music, I need to draw attention to the title of the opening track: “East Of Seddon”. For those unaware, some of the more major New Zealand earthquakes in recent years have triggered – you guessed it – just east of the upper South Island town of Seddon. I adore the imagery that the title evokes. Does it indicate that Hiboux are at the epicenter of something big? That their music is earth-shatteringly good? Let’s find out…
The track starts of with some gorgeous harmonising guitars that riff together in tandem. Not like thrash metal riffing, but more elegant and leisurely. The two guitarists each deviate ever so slightly with their picking to keep the ostinato sounding fresh. The rest of the band joins in – bass and keys add atmosphere while the drums add urgency. The song meanders and changes – as you would hope from a nine minute epic – and the guitars split to each adopt different roles. But it’s those dual guitar lines at the start that really make this opening track what it is.
Most of the songs follows suit in much the same fashion. Repeated guitar riffs, band comes in, things start to expand. But this is not to say that the music is formulaic. The riffs are fantastic – musical and memorable. The drumming is sensitive – adding to the overall feel with finesse, but not overplaying.
Something that Hiboux excel at is creating memorable riffs without the need for heaviness. Or creating great sound without the need for effects (that I can tell. I hear little reverb, distortion, delay etc but I am not an expert on such things). And I hate to focus on the guitars so much at the expense of the other instruments, but they really do stand out.
I always wonder how musicians manage to write and remember such long and complex songs. Ranges have a 24 minute song called “Night & Day“, and “Dominion” by Kiwi heroes Jakob rings in at just shy of half an hour. In a recent interview I learnt that Hiboux take months (or even up to a year) to write and refine their epic pieces. It makes sense when you listen to each track. Spontaneous music is great, but it is clear that these songs are not just ideas picked out willy-nilly from a jam session.
(Again, I need to go off-tangent here. Look at that photo! How cool is that shot? And, even better, the band is standing on the wall of old army magazine bunker ruins in Wellington, which was burnt down when bank robbers set alight a stolen van that they had parked inside. So much awesome in just one picture!)
Running a music blog is pretty cool, but I find that after reviewing so many post-rock albums it can be hard to come up with ways to discuss music that sounds so similar. Not so with Hiboux, who have done themselves proud with this release. Yes, it is undeniably post-rock through and through. But it also sounds fresh and innovative whilst sitting comfortably within the genre.
I am always stoked to discover great local bands who can sit comfortably beside their musical peers on a global scale, and with Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up, Hiboux have proven that they fit that description.
Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up is now available for download from https://hibouxband.bandcamp.co