"Heaven is the title of the diary written by Nakajima Ume, a young woman who lived in Japan from 1836 to 1864. It's entries catalog her catastrophic marriage to a cruel nobleman, and her later introduction to a young, idealistic poet whose expressions of sympathy inspire her to escape from her unfortunate circumstances.
When her friendship with the poet is discovered, Ume is sent away to a distant village, where she falls into a deep depression and eventually learns of the poet’s death. Though the news of the poet’s death initially disturbs Ume, she soon discovers within herself a new sense of clarity and motivation. Her diary ends with a final pronouncement: she will drown herself in order to reunite with her fallen lover."
The Bilinda Butchers is one of those rare acts that has actually managed to define a certain branch of shoegaze, by bringing traditional Japanese vibes and melodies into the genre. There has been a number of great japanese bands gazing down before these guys entered the scene, but these to my knowledge never intertwined their musical heritage into their sounds.
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.
(Sounds Better With Reverb)