In some acoustically treated room somewhere, the members of HRVRD sat down many times over the past three or four years and noodled around with advantageous sounds saturated in luscious reverb, ping pong delay, and enough melody per song to shake a stick at. With no fault of their own, they made the decisions to further advance their already progressive sound in a bit more reserved direction, but the emotion lies just thinly enough beneath the surface to face towards the listener after giving the record more than just one spin. From the Bird’s Cage is a complicated breath of indie-prog menagerie, taking lots of time for me to dissect and even more time to understand. How do we know if listening to something so complex in theory is justifiable or just a waste of energy?
The thing about HRVRD is, every single piece of art-filled musicality they put out is worth the while. Faced with immense pressure after their incredible debut The Inevitable and I, the group could have fallen victim to the dreaded “sophomore slump” mouse trap that doles out the proverbial cheese to so many unsuspecting and naive bands – but they didn’t. This record, while different, proves that the band has the gusto to stick around and challenge themselves on every level while working their strengths, for a true auditory uplifting every time the listener tries to wrap his or her head around these songs.
On a blank slate, oftentimes I found myself getting caught up in the dense layering and interesting sounds that presented themselves in rising and falling crescendos under vocalist Jesse Clasen’s angelic vocal approach, a perfect example being anthropic opener “Black Creme.” Coming across as even more honest than before, the quiet croons that proclaim “this is bigger than you/this is better,” rather than come off narcissistic, come off as truthful and earnest. There is such a range of feelings kept under wraps on this record, some are more obvious than others but generally easy to find. “Flaming Creatures” conjures dark and moody tension while “Timid Scripts” is a comfortable mid-tempo affair that soulfully tears through a plethora of different melodies, and all the while Clasen’s key signature line “Have you lost your faith in love/Have you lost your favorite one” comes off again with that honest symmetry without being the slightest bit pontificating. It’s a nimble balance and they ride the line gracefully. There’s something for everyone on this record in all formats.
HRVRD seems to shine the brightest when the groove is in full swing, such as in the climactic and incredible “Futurist” or the cathartic “We Never Shut Up About You,” with both having some of the most powerful choruses on the record. There’s a constant theme throughout the record and it remains ever so pertinent; I’ll leave it to you to figure it out. Each song refuses to rush to it’s climax, offering slow and powerful build-ups. Every bit of instrumentation delivers with sonic subtlety, and rich walls of sound. The record’s production is actually one of my favorite parts of the whole thing. Every instrument is placed in perfect spectral context, with plenty of room to breathe and work their magic. Listen to this intently with good headphones or speakers in a quiet room; there’s plenty of innocuous sounds that poke their heads in and out of the mix over the span of each listen, and that offers so much more replay value for me personally.
As you approach the end of the record, the gorgeous piano-laced closer “Eva Brücke” dances around an upbeat melody until the chorus, where everything comes together in ethereal harmony and washes over you with a feeling of peace and chills. It all plays together in a beautiful way that’s tough to describe, in a way that only HRVRD could.
Listening to something so complex in theory can seem daunting, but if you take the time to analyze it for what it is, you’re bound to figure out the immense art that lies beneath that thinly veiled surface. I’m eager to see what these incredible musicians have in store for the future, because if From the Bird’s Cage tells me anything, it’s that they’re set for things bigger than themselves.