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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Album Wed Sep 24 2008

High Places -- Field Notes from Somewhere Else

From the sound of it, High Places are providing the soundtrack to the travelogue for an imaginary country. It's an island country perhaps, one located in the waters somewhere many miles off the coast of Malaysia -- a land of open skies and fields grown tall with lemongrass, and of dense and verdant canopies teeming with little scurrying things, of evenings illuminated by fireflies the size of cellphones, and where the forest-dwelling natives spend their afternoons lazing about and eating rambutan sherbert while building a musical cargo cult around Aphex Twin's "Donkey Rhubarb." Maybe the place is called Walamalau or something like that. Whatever the case, their message from afar arrives reading: Everything is so otherly, we wish you were here.

But in fact, High Places is the Brooklynite duo of Mary Pearson and Rob Barber. With this, their newly released CD on Thrill Jockey, the pair follow up on anticipation generated by their previous singles and opening appearances for the likes of No Age and Deerhunter with a proper full-length debut.

Barber and Pearson are clearly taken with the traditional music of faraway places, particularly that of Indonesia and Laos. They both play stringed instruments and other things, as well as every object that can be put to percussive purposes -- mainly bells, anything that sounds like a marimba, and numerous found objects that make a good noise when struck the right way. What results are songs filled with sonorous clanking and clattering of the gamelan sort; creating heady musical vistas while Pearson's dreamy vocals float atop, as if narrating the excursion from high above the treetops.

In the end, it's akin to a certain species of "folktronica" that made the rounds a few years back, except this time exoticized via some Nonesuch Explorer Audio Companion to Southeast Asia; stitched together with the sort of digital stutter and flutter that's long been the hallmark of crafty laptop productions.

High Places have hit upon a striking formula; one that can, on any given track, sweep the listener off into some other world that's only sort-of part of this world. Pleasant and captivating? Yes, very much so, if only for a while. A few songs into the album's short span, however, a pervasive sense of same-iness sets in -- with everything blurring together in a numbing haze, with each song limited to a limited range of tempo, mood, density, and ultimately inhabiting the same compacted sonic space. Which is unfortunate and a bit baffling, considering that the needed variance could easily be found in the music (both Asiatic and electronic) that inspired High Places to begin with. In the end, it's a few clicks past mere musical tourism, but one can't help but feel that more field research is in order.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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