Review: Hiva Oa – mk2 (part 1)

From the very start of the churning, simplistic synth loop of ‘A Great Height’, Hiva Oa’s influences are quite clear. Though on this track the vocal element of this Irish duo’s music takes a turn vaguely in the direction Tool’s Maynard Keenan, what is most readily detectable throughout new EP mk 2 (part 1) is an adoration for the musical explorations of Radiohead. Every track displays a union of electronic, synthesised layers of sound with acoustic drum patterns and guitar decorations, adding up to an overall sound that is very reminiscent of Thom Yorke’s English superstars, but in a respectful way which is better than mere mimicry.

The Yorke-esque soft, yearning vocal lines are so uncanny on ‘Seskinore’ that this could easily be an offcut from the In Rainbows sessions, the dirty synth bassline pushing to a zenith with the help of the build-up of driving drums. Bu again, although the comparison is easy, it is not a criticism, as Hiva Oa take the rich tapestry of Radiohead’s musical principles and hang it in a slightly different, more modest light.

‘Christine’ is an airy ballad, managing to skirt around the edge of full-on depression without ever falling fully in, keeping a soft and ethereal air. Led by a wash of synth, wailing guitar undertones sketch a backdrop of slight otherworldliness.

Closing track ‘Johnny Brazil’ is the most distinctive and different track on offer here, but still fits seamlessly into the overall style of the EP. There is more forward motion than on previous tracks, and the vocals hold more of their own character. A female ostinato refrain is another new angle at height of the texture towards the end of the track, and tops off this simplistic but stylish number nicely.

mk 2 (part 1) is an understated but dynamic release; straightforward but with enough subtle invention to keep it exciting. There can be no doubt which artists Hiva Oa owe a debt to, but in truth they are continuing and carrying forward a strong and popular tradition, rather than blatantly ripping off their heroes, and although stardom may not await them, it is a noble and worthy tradition to follow in.

Richard Spencer

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