Review: Huski – H

Be careful of what you wish for. One of our initial reactions to Huski’s last album was “too much guitar, not enough electronics”. Well, on H, they’ve sure banked left and ramped up the synths, but to great effect or ill?

This blogger is a big, big fan of not only Huski but pretty much every Melanie Garside has touched. We listed the first Huski album, Love, Peace, Pain as one of the top electronic albums of the last decade. Their last, poorly distributed, but pretty damn terrific record, Strangelove was among out top ten of last year. This is not a casual relationship. So, upon listening to H, there were a series of conflicted emotions goin’ round.

There are decidedly two distinct halves to this record. Half is made up of new songs, and what a delight these five songs are. While the poky, too-shoe-gaze-y by half “Red Bird” is not the strongest of these tracks even it is a pretty ballad with a typically lovely Garside vocal to lift it skyward. The other tracks are strong, full stop. We’ve already blogged about how terrific single “Sleeps Over” is, what with its dance-pop sheen scuffed by a darker hue. It speaks to the strength of the original, new songs on this album, particularly the slinky “Pandora Smiles” and slow, pulsating “Don’t Look Away”. As an EP, this is great, great stuff.

The other half of the album, however, is something else altogether. Strangelove was a sneaky exercise that saw a more traditional instrumentation than we had heard previously. But there were thoughtful layers of electronics mixed with more prominent guitars and percussion and the strength of the songwriting was beyond reproach. For H the band have decided to resuscitate five of those songs and to remake them with a more electronic polish. And in the process, they rob these songs of the soul and power that made them so strong to begin with. The most jarring is “Close to the Edge”, one of the best songs on the last album. A powerful, gut punch of a mid tempo song is now a feels like a deeper take on where Goldfrapp was going with “Rocket”. It’s a far weaker treatment of a previously wonderful, memorable song. “Strangelove” seems rather pointless, updating one of the more purely electronic songs on the previous effort with a series of irritating stutter effects and little more of note. “Make Up” is little more than an old school remix, twisting about a clangy uptempo stomper. “First Light” is one of the best songs on Strangelove, now virtually unrecognizable. These takes don’t add strength to the songs so much as neuter them. They would have been much better served by leaving the previously recorded material be and sticking with new songs, as they continue to show their songwriting chops and ability to build beautiful tracks.

Huski are still one of the most exciting electronic bands on the scene, but like anyone, instincts sometimes lead one astray. We’ll take the half of the album that works so delightfully and stick with the first versions of the rest, content in the knowledge that with each new project they gather steam and power ever-forward.

Watch: Sleeps Over

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