CD Review: High Places

High Places vs. Mankind (Thrill Jockey)

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High Places are a duo. This is good to know because Robert Barber and Mary Pearson layer sounds in a deceptive manner. There could be 10 people on this ambitious album, their second full-length. The stated concept is "the complex, gigantic subject of being human and what it's like to interact with other human beings." Thematically, the idea holds up through the short story told in "Constant Winter," as well as the death discourse "When It Comes." The duo shows musical ambition and growth toward a more organic sound, even as their approach to layering remains the same. "On Giving Up" and "The Most Beautiful Name" are as dancey as expected. But there is considerably more guitar in "Canada" and "She's a Wild Horse." The whole package has an ethereal feel, evincing influence from myriad 4AD acts (Pearson's vocals in particular sound like an effects-laden version of His Name Is Alive's Karin Oliver). Beyond its thematic and musical ambition, this is easily High Places' most melodic music, and it's that simple fact that makes the complexity work.

Chris Drabick

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