Heart-Ships – EP1

Heart-Ships have been keeping themselves busy exposing the general public to their unflinchingly dramatic and epic music for quite some time now and at last there is a shiny new EP for us all to be exposed to as well.

The less than imaginatively titled “EP1” will be available from the 29th April and includes four tracks that represent a pretty good cross section of their music. The opener, “Five Forks of Lightning”, welcomes you with a gentle guitar line which continues to run under the whole song like a six stringed babbling brook. The fragile side of Cooke’s vocals create a reflective air on a track that shares some DNA with a lot of openers on Elbow albums – it wanders along through hazy, early morning light and never really breaks in a full tilt affair. The usual juggernautish final third is kept in check to maintain the softer feeling of a bundle of memories being unravelled right in front of you.

The mood shifts with the second song, “Pinhole of Light”; the tempo and volume are raised and the delicate vocals are quickly left behind in favour of the soaring harmonies that bring about the familiar semi-operatic, rousing choruses that bring to mind a group of Vikings covering a Kate Bush track at times. It’s an ancient kind of sound – you can imagine that their song writing involves swords and animal skins.

“Spray Paint” is the pick of the EP. It has many of the attributes of the rest of this short collection of tunes but somewhere in the middle the music is reduced to a minimum and the vocals become heart-rending. You could be forgiven for thinking these words were being told to you by the most broken of human beings on the verge of collapsing in on himself in a surge of late night tears and alcohol. The heavy reverb on the guitars and the crashing cymbals all merge as the song progresses to produce a wave that gathers you up and makes it virtually impossible not to get completely engulfed.

The EP closes with “Air Balloon”, which is the most conventional of all the tunes. It could probably be compared to the sort of thing you’d expect from Arcade Fire. There is still the usual dynamic to the song – a single, more gentle vocal over a simple guitar lick before the harmonies and the more intense rhythm section comes in for the chorus – but the previous three songs are more ear-catching and seem to grab you a bit more.

Heart-Ships progression from band-in-a-basement beginnings to the release of this EP has been steady and has incorporated winning plenty of fans via the surprising and powerful live shows. Thankfully, they have managed to capture a good slice of that live feeling on these recordings.

If you’re not familiar with this band, my advice to you is to come to “EP1” with an open mind and allow yourself to get caught up in the avalanche of sound that ensues. There is a good chance it will get under your skin and, if it does, I guarantee that you’ll be singing their praises – quite possibly without fully understanding why – for a long time to come.

“EP1” is released on 29th April 2013.