I wouldn’t say New Zealand post-rock is rare, it’s definitely becoming less so, but a post-rock release from NZ is still something to be celebrated. Hiboux, from Wellington, offer a kind of instrumental rock/post-rock blend with their excellent debut album Command The Earth To Swallow Me Up (CTETSMU).
RELEASE DATE: 01 March 2017 LABEL: Self-released
Hiboux begin with what is probably their strongest track, ‘East of Seddon’. I think the title is referencing an earthquake, but in contrast the song begins with a delicate, soothing motif and gradually builds to crescendo over roughly the first five minutes. During the remaining four minutes there are some great moments of bluesy dissonance and tension while the song builds again.
Delicate is a good way to describe CTETSMU. The beauty Hiboux create is striking. There is a lightness and fragility to Hiboux’s sound that gives you the feeling they are being careful, in case everything falls apart after the slightest too-heavy touch. Even when they are at full-noise, there’s a feeling they aren’t entirely committed, that there’s another level of Hiboux, a final form we aren’t being shown. If they can dig a little deeper the wonderful, emotive atmospheres they are creating could become truly immersive.
It’s in ‘Mäusethal’ and ‘Aphasia’ where Hiboux are at their most raw, and their most rock. Some of the groove sections with lead guitar melodies could very easily be classified as straight rock if you replaced the lead line with vocals. The overall intention is post-rock, and overall you would say it’s a post-rock album, but there is a slight lack of focus to their sound that could be refined.
Stand-out track ‘Priests of the Forest’ offers some more convincing variation towards the end of the album. Around 05:30 there’s a lovely arpeggio riff that evolves with a rock/disco beat, giving off a kind of early Muse vibe. The progression of this riff and groove is probably the finest point on CTETSMU, and is perfectly placed in the album. It picks you up, gets you moving again and refreshes you for the finale, ‘Precession’.
The production and recording is clear, sharp, and at times the arrangement is lush, but the mix could have more bite. CTETSMU is so clean that is leaves you craving some dirt. I think they could push the tentative effects and delays harder, really let go of the controls and just ride the wave of noise. The mix has such a focus on the lead guitar that the big driving bass riffs and drums are often forgotten, resulting in loss of momentum in the longer sections.
Overall CTETSMU is a solid debut from a band that sounds like it has a lot to offer. Listening to the album as a whole carries the listener through dreamy sets of swells that evoke strong imagery. It is most definitely the kind of album you can lose yourself in; just drift away and get taken for a ride.