The second His Name Is Alive album is certainly more individual and original than its predecessor "Livonia". It's interesting stuff, constructed from short fragments of music, with sparse, minimalist accompaniments and simple ghostly vocal lines. Compared to the sometimes over-produced and highly This Mortal Coil-influenced "Livonia", it certainly tries to do more with less. I'm not convinced that it's actually more successful though. Karin Oliver's silky but penetrating vocals can be effectively sinister against the ostentatiously quiet backgrounds, like on the "I know what you'd use them for" refrain on "Charmer". But these nursery-rhyme songs often take their plodding simplicity too far, and don't seen to be saying anything. I don't think artistic economy in itself makes for satisfying music.
Warren Defever pieces together the songs with "found-objects" collages of spontaneous studio experiments, giving the album continuity, and sometimes ("Sitting") there's an interestingly edgy musical idea. But mostly he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself, and the music's artiness seems more contrived. Maybe "Home Is In Your Head" is more cool to be seen to like, but I prefer "Livonia" for its stronger musical content. Perhaps they had more to prove with their debut and made more of an effort to write memorable music. Although I won't knock this too much, it's colourfully interesting stuff.
August 23, 2004