Published Sep 11, 2018On the surface, it's not all that clear where Spirit of the Beehive are trying to end up with their music; there's never been definitive destination in sight. But the Philly-based quintet are more than just a band. They're the sort of a catalyst that forces listeners to peek behind otherwise closed doors, and that's exactly where Hypnic Jerks can be found.
Frontman Zack Schwartz describes their third full-length sounding like "the state between wakefulness and sleep." A purgatorial realm where we're less likely to melt into the couch as we are to sink through the floor itself — a trip.
Throughout the album, Spirit have embodied an atmosphere so tangible, you could hold each track in your palm and watch it ooze between your fingers. Cuts like "Poly Swim" have a dreamlike lightness to them, while "Monumental Shame" and Beatles-inspired "D.o.u.b.l.e.u.r.o.n.g." are slung along by staggering melodies and warped guitars akin to all things weird and dear to the '60s.
Unlike 2017's Pleasure Suck, the band are more reserved when applying extreme contrasts, and only do so when it's necessary to accentuate and excite. The first single "Can I Receive the Contact?" presents itself as a straightforward psych-rock song, rich in Mellotron-esque synths and memorable hooks. However, hiding at the tail end of the track is a lethal dose of fuzz guitar, an ingenious time signature change, and a sound bite equally abrupt as it is unnerving.
Schwartz might have given our attention spans too much credit when piecing these samples together. The risky placement and length at which most of the sound bites appear is a miscalculation that offers little to no payoff.
Still, amidst the experimental are beautifully breezy tracks like "(Without You) In My Pocket," that meets their audience halfway, as if to gently say "...here...catch your breath...you've earned it." When those moments happen, it's bliss.
Hypnic Jerks is not an easy listen. It's bold, it's messy and at times undoubtedly overwhelming. But more importantly, it's a wildly imaginative showcase of rule-breaking done in all the right ways. As the album comes to a close, a voice mutters, "We don't know what's gonna happen." I can't help but wonder "who does?" Long live the trip. (Tiny Engines)