Review: hearts bonfire - "and so the beast has opened its eyes"

hearts bonfire - and so the beast has opened its eyes
(2013 Memory No. 36)
"A swirling, impressionistic effect."

Repping a steady stream of artists touting quiet bedroom pop since January, Memory No. 36 Recordings has quickly skyrocketed up the list of my favorite tape labels, and they've only further impressed me with the recent release of and so the beast has opened its eyes. It's the new album by solo act hearts bonfire, who, judging by the new album's cover art, you'd expect to hail from Tokyo, is actually from North Carolina. Perhaps the art is rather fitting, though, as the slick, ultra-cool vibe of this cassette creates the imagery of barreling full throttle through a futuristic cityscape in a shiny sports car. Neon lights blur, swell and blend together outside your window, blinding you with their swirling, impressionistic effect. Because you see all things at once, you can see nothing, but you feel safe inside of 1.5 tons of speeding vehicle, because the warm synth tones of hearts bonfire is there for you, no matter what the feeling. That's what's so perfect about this album: the dreamy pop sound has such an ambiguous mood that you'll always be up for a listen.

Take the standout, (and most strangely titled), track "have you had thoughts about hurting yourself?". Sure, it's one of the more upbeat songs on display here, with a Naked and Famous-esque refrain of "I'm feeling like I never knew you", but there's something in that chillingly sparse arpeggiation that opens the track and the woozy synths that flesh it out that form a hazy, melancholy atmosphere. There are quite a few ambient instrumentals as well, like "casinovision", which sounds like an 80s pop song looking at its reflection in a funhouse mirror. The album closes solemnly and cinematically with "maria", an absolutely sublime piece of ambience, church-like organs played in a repetitive cycle of simple chords to create a song that sounds hushed and reserved, yet packs an unparalleled wallop. Well done, hearts bonfire. Listen to the album below.