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the bilinda butchers - heaven

The Bilinda Butchers give us their debut album ‘Heaven’ this week via Orchid Tapes (Vinyl)  / Fastcut Records (CD) and digital is right here! The San Francisco-based trio (Michal Palmer, Adam Honingford and Ryan Wansley) reached for the lofty goal of creating a concept record based around a fictional love story set in 19th century Japan. ‘Heaven’ being the soundtrack. As predicted, the album doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. There’s ambient (‘Ume’),  rock (‘Less Than’), synth pop (‘Golden House’), spoken word plus lots of experimentation. They haven’t pigeon holed themselves and it’s a credit to their creativity.

‘Heaven’ features several guest artists that add depth to the record, starting off with vocalist Juri Nakashima. The Japanese flavour is the first taste you get on ‘Ume’, a song of devotion to kick off the tragic tale. It’s done in grandiose  style, this song is a stunner. It’s followed by the catchy ‘Less Than’ which dispels any hope of predicting what the next song might sound like. ‘Old Style Anami’ pairs ambient synths with spoken word. The trio have mentioned previously how video games have influenced them, in these moments it’s most noticeable.

Sarah Psalti (former singer of Keep Shelly In Anthens) contributes to the second single ‘Golden House’. It’s an 80s styled synth popper that marks a turning point in the album’s theme, things are about to get dark! The rain of ‘New Style Askashi’ leads into the 2013 single ‘The Lover’s Suicide’, another one of ‘Heaven’s highlights. But for me, ‘Tanka’ and ‘Edo Method’ are the strongest songs on the record. Both play with pitch bending synths against breakbeats with fantastic vocal melodies.

The latter half of the album focuses on the concept of heaven and the afterlife. ‘Heaven Holds A Place’ is ironically happy, almost comical. I’m guessing that’s what they were going for, there’s soulful falsetto vocals and a chorus of ‘Oooh’s after all! Presumably this is the moment when our remaining lover looks forward to reuniting after death, but I could be wrong. Needless to say, ‘Heaven’ is a unique record, it’s rare to get this wrapped up in an album. It’s a conversation starter that’s likely to drag you back for repeated listens. I can only speculate how many fans will fall in love with it, destined to be high on ‘best of’s lists for 2014.
The Bilinda Butchers – ‘Heaven’ (Stream)

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The Bilinda Butchers - 'Heaven'
Sound & Production
Reverb Rating
  • Diverse and genre defying
  • Great pop moments
  • Ambitious concept
  • There can always be more reverb!
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (15 Votes)