|"Animal" as painted by|
(Part 2 - After the Music)
In the VVers' world, very few instances exist where seeing a band live increases appreciation of their recorded work. Washington DC's Heavy Breathing is the exceptional exception. When Heavy Breathing perform, they bring it. "IT" = scintillating synths, make-the-audience-feel-awkward asides, all-out drumming, bravado guitars, and a whiz-bang light show. Each member of this three-piece band has a distinct stage personality and is responsible for the above mentioned "IT"s. It should also be noted that the band members madly grin through their entire show; they have serious fun. This makes perfect sense as it is impossible not to dance gleefully during a Heavy Breathing set. Was the faith of our humble VVers rewarded that the band could capture all of said je ne sais quoi on their brand new LP Airtight? Absolutely rewarded. The same joyful abandon--with a hint of very naughty--is etched in every single groove, so turn it loud! Airtight is a laser light show on wax. Live performance and recording complement each other just right with neither doing a disservice.
"Intro" perfectly fits the bill for a starter to this LP. Heavy Breathing starts their live shows with aforementioned narratives which often make the audience look at each other nervously and think to themselves, "Did I come to the right show? What have I gotten myself into?" "Intro" begins with apropos heavy breathing noises in what sounds like a time warp or black hole. "What record did I just buy? This is weird!" Weird is right, and it is great! Highlight tracks, "Gimmie Mine" and "Drop It" are staples of Heavy Breathing's live shows. The recorded versions have a crisp sound that allows the layered samples and instruments to come through. The energetic, manic drumming on "Gimmie Mine" is just as pronounced in the recording, granted it is more fun live (their drummer is Animal's doppelganger: flailing arms, bobbing body, giant smile; it is wonderful to watch). "Drop It" has more of a relaxed tempo, but both tracks are also loaded with all sorts of indescribable weirdo noises and funky-fat riffs. It is hard to pin-down exactly what Heavy Breathing's music sounds like because they really don't sound like anyone and no one sounds like them. This is a fantastic problem. Psychedelic heavy metal electronica? Psych-rock disco? Shredding cabbage? Oddball house goth? World-inspired weirdo-pop? Sure, yes. Heavy Breathing grew from former group, the Apes, keeping some of their similar sound, but ditching live vocals for repeated, distorted samples and dance oriented jams. These vocal samples are just as confusing to describe, as they generally sound like gibberish, but in a surrealistically pleasing way. It more than works; it helps the listener to focus on the music being pumped out, shredded, and blasted by the band. "Easy" has lovely vampiric organ flourishes leading into and out of a propulsive booty shaker. Slow tempo tracks are scarce except for "Touch It" and "I No Luv"; the later is playful and allows for synths to really shine through. Airtight has numerous twists and turns that are as stupefying as they are rewarding. Each crescendo of darkness met with a mightier triumphant riff. Epic is the right word.
Let's take a minute to reflect on the album art again, shall we? Front cover naked guy (aka "Steve") looks like he is passed out after a night of hedonism. Back cover lady also passed out on the ground, but at least she managed to keep her clothes on. Too much Heavy Breathing or just the right amount? No one knows. Regardless, it's just the right visual cue that these cats have a relentless sound that will party you up until you drop. What does that even mean?