Tue 14th August 2012
Hiva Oa are a three-piece from Edinburgh who deal in the kind of minimalism that means hushed venues, crossed legs and respectful quiet.
Touching on the barely-there whisps of sound that Rachels and Labradford have honed over the years with some haunting vocals, Hiva Oa know the advantages of holding back.
With delicately-picked guitar and mournful strings chiming with vocals that are soft and restrained it makes for a sad, but strangely uplifting release. Opener Floods builds slowly until female vocals come in and work in a repetitive manner to chill you to the bone.
The Minder combines background chatter and piano with some direct female vocals and the effect it has is the kind of disregard to the listener that their spiritual brethren Prolapse mastered quite well in the 90s. Hiva Oa are nowhere near as vitriolic, theirs is a stern warning, not an out and out bit of poison meant to do damage.
The production is as stark as a winter day, reverb bathes everything in a haunting and evocative sheen. Even without this, it would be generally very affecting anywhere. Percussion is used only as and when needed, no tick tock of constant time means the songs occupy space that is free and it's to the band's advantage.
Folkish elements make their way in, but it's not with a chummy, nostalgic or patronising way, rather an air of the past blowing through its very modern feel. Strange instrumentation intrudes on tracks like Urban with hints of melodica, sleigh bells and xylophone making their presence felt. This would be fantastic to punctuate a bright winter morning, with white sunlight flowing through a window, making everything stark. I'd recommend taking this release on a long walk too, it'd probably make everything around you seem more profound.
It comes out very soon on the excellent mini50 records in September, so keep an eye out for it.