Como bien dice nuestro amigo Vicente en su tremendo blog Es Demasiado Para Mi Cabeza: “Shoegaze y Electrónica es la tendencia en el mundo de la música independiente. Pues I Break Horses lo han captado y lo han elevado a la enésima potencia siguiendo aferrimamente el objetivo”. Imposible definir mejor el espíritu de este disco de debut del dúo sueco I Break Horses. Ellos se declaran seguidores de My Bloody Valentine y Jesus and Mary Chain, es decir, el núcleo duro del Shoegaze más ruidoso y, digamos, experimental. Lo que es cierto es que su parte electrónica no llega nunca a saturarnos, y está perfectamente integrada en todos sus temas, siendo el apoyo perfecto para consolidarse en realidad como la base de cada uno de ellos, aunque en muchos aparezcan ramalazos ruidosos (Hearts, Wired). En realidad, Hearts se revela inmediatamente como un disco imprescindible para entender la música de estas últimas temporadas, en las que ambas tendencias, unidas al Dream-Pop, han dado frutos de indiscutible calidad. I Break Horses han sabido conjugar tales tendencias y han parido un disco con el que, por ejemplo, The Raveonettes han estado suspirando los dos últimos años. Aun sin ser un disco sobresaliente, no deja de ser uno de los grandes descubrimientos del año. Recomendable.
“I Break Horses‘ name tells me they listen to Smog. Their debut LP, Hearts, does not. Late-period Smog– and, by extension, Bill Callahan’s solo albums– are often built upon earthy instrumentation, understated vocals, emotional stoicism, and a wry sense of humor. All of these qualities are absent from Hearts. On Hearts, the Swedish duo of Maria Lindén and Fredrick Balck immerse themselves in homemade shoegaze, the kind that’s made by computers for computers. It’s an approach and sound that’s crossed language barriers for the past 20 or so years as bands strive to approximate Loveless without the benefit of a label they can bankrupt in the process.
The form had something of a rebirth with M83′s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts: At the time of its release, the beauty the album achieved with seemingly cheap synths felt shockingly novel. As Matt LeMay wrote: by 2003 “a gorgeous wall of melodic guitar noise just [didn't] seem so impressive anymore.” I Break Horses can do this sort of pretty, and you’ll view Hearts as frustrating or effortlessly pleasing depending on your ability to see doing only “pretty” as an admirable endgame. However, the album’s first two tracks do provide a legitimately thrilling and visceral experience.
Opener “Winter Beats” fades in on a trebly arpeggio that spins like an LED pinwheel over sustained, 8-bit major chords: Until Lindén’s heavy-lidded vocals enter, it’s nearly a chiptune revival. Soon thereafter we get the anticipatory thwack of the first synth snare– the part, toward the end, where it locks into a near-double-time beat. That, coupled with an echo of MBV’s glide guitar, add up to an emulation of controlled flight that has me thinking of how roller coasters work on an elemental level, how meticulously engineers leave no hairpin turn or stomach-rattling drop to chance. It’s a marvel of aerodynamic design. The title track, on the other hand, has more of a pulsating build, one that’s no less overwhelming, Lindén and Balck swathing themselves in sumptuous sonic fabrics only to tear it all apart. It’s not entirely without precedent– in addition to Dead Cities, there’s the lo-fi abstraction of 4-track dream-pop projects like Astrobrite or the points on Fuck Buttons’ Tarot Sport where the catharsis of noise and rave dovetailed. For about nine minutes, I Break Horses achieve a similarly fanged beauty.
Then there’s the moment where “Hearts” fades out and “Wired” introduces itself with a guitar entirely shorn of processing. “Wired”‘s hardly a bum track– it’s got something of a roadhouse blues bump that’s every bit as surprising as the sudden pitch-shifting that warps the final minute– but it is a turning point. The rest of Hearts simply swims with the current using a kind of aerobicized take on shoegaze that streamlines the sawtooths into soft curves, and merges emotional polarity into a constant and generally pleasant buzz. It’s music you might hear in a CB2 furniture store– languorous and luxurious in tempos and tone, but without any sort of sentiment outside of the swooning used to implant the idea in your brain that you might have sex or do drugs on that reasonably priced but fashionable couch.
Lyrics rarely mean anything in this realm, but you can take titles like “I Kill Your Love, Baby”, “Pulse”, and “Empty Bottles” as guidelines. And, as if echoing the album title, a near-constant kick drum thump serves as a sonic equivalent of the heart at the center of these songs, tracks that pump steadily without being upset by much. The snare rattles that punctuate “Cancer” gives the impression that it’s on the verge of some sort of breakthrough, but not enough tension builds to take it there. Later, as closer “No Way Outro” starts to ramp itself up with a minute of regal drum rolls, Hearts just fades out.
I’d hate to think that I Break Horses’ capacity for magic is contained completely within their distortion pedals, but “Winter Beats” and “Hearts” sound marooned from the majority of the record, sort of like a pair of oddly placed remixes (as well as cruel reminders of heights never again achieved). Really, considering the majority of Hearts’ unbothered lushness, I Break Horses’ adoption of the name of one of Smog’s most intense songs doesn’t seem quite right. Judging from the material we get after those first two tracks, “Butterflies Drowned in Wine” would’ve been a more appropriate way to show their appreciation” (pitchfork.com)