Blue Hawaii - Untogether

The album tends to favour ponderous, glacial ambience.

Label: Arbutus Records / Kompakt

Rating: 6

If there’s two things you get a sense of with Blue Hawaii’s ‘Untogether’, it’s the feelings of space and distance. This release, the debut long player from the duo known separately as Agor and Raph (Braids’ singer), is an introspective rumination on the struggle for connectedness in the detached relationships we are becoming more accustomed to thanks to modern technology. Written by the duo in separation and recorded across Canada over the course of almost two years, ‘Untogether’’s magic is as slow to take hold, just as it was to put together. But once it does actually manage to take hold, it stretches out within its airy, echoic confines and becomes beautifully luminescent, revealing a space that is both spacious and claustrophobic. Think of a light in an ice cave.

The album tends to favour ponderous, glacial ambience which, whilst very nicely put together, achieves its emotional impact with varying degrees of success. At times the music spaces itself out so gradually and with comparatively little payoff that it frustrates to try and listen to the whole song (‘Try To Be’) but at other times, the duo use the space to let a strange/beautiful melody grow and ultimately entrance you (‘Sweet Tooth’).

But where the album really hits its stride is with edgier numbers that pop and crack in unexpected ways. Save for some very diary entry-like lyrics, the transition from the gently ethereal ‘In Two’ to the persistent body music groove of ‘In Two II’ is seamless, and becomes especially good when Raph playfully comes in with “take my arms, wrap them in a bow.” Elsewhere, the almost dubstep-like wonkiness of album highlight, ‘Sierra Lift’, is pretty and disorienting at the same time. Perhaps against the backdrop of more ambient numbers, these cuts stand out because they really cause waves in a frozen ocean of an album.

Overall though, while ‘Untogether’ is immaculately put together, it does take a while to cross over and connect with you. But given it’s an album inspired in part by winter, it is little wonder then that the prevailing mood is melancholy and wistfulness. So don’t expect ‘Untogether’ to alter your molecular structure with glorious power or otherworldly innovation. However, if you listen to it long enough, its wintry, ice-drop beats will start to match the pitter-patter of your longing heart.