released December 25, 2011
Happy Particles - Under Sleeping Waves
Songs & lyrics
written by Steven Kane
Classes in Silence & Reprise
written by Steven Kane and Graeme Ronald.
String arrangements by Graeme Ronald and James Swinburne.
Gordon Farquhar - Drums & Percussion
Steven Kane - Guitar, Vocals, Piano & Laptop
Graeme Ronald - Bass
James Swinburne - Saxophone & Rhodes Piano
Greg Lawson - 1st Violin
Kobus Frick - 2nd Violin
Scott Dickinson - Viola
Rudi de Groote - Cello
Engineered and recorded by Robin Sutherland
Mixed by Robin Sutherland and Steven Kane
String recording engineer - Willem Mathlener
Mastered by Iain Cook
Lucy Anderson - photography, artwork & design
Gordon Farquhar -font design
'You could float on this album for days, allowing its gorgeous melodies to wrap themselves around your head and soothe your tired mind. You could listen to it on repeat and find something new catching your ear each time - there are rich levels of detail, but nothing which ever feels forced or superfluous. It is - well, there's that word once more - stunning.'
THE EVENING TIMES
'What Happy Particles succeed at doing is making gloriously ambient noise, mixing up waves of noise with with minimalist vocals to form a shoegaze influenced sound that's enchanting.'
'Ambient vistas to rival Sigur Ros from Remember Remember-affiliated musicians
This lovely debut from Glasgow slow-core melodists Happy Particles may be sneaking out as a self-release on December 25, but don’t be misled by their low-key approach: the ambient vistas conjured therein could rival those of Sigur Rós.
Much of this is down to Steven Kane’s ethereal voice, but when your band shares stellar personnel with Remember Remember (Kane, Graeme Ronald and James Swinburne play in both outfits) then there’s a fair bet that epic, virtuosic melodies will unfurl – and so they do.
‘Slowness’ is awash with chamber post-rock – the strings throughout the album are gorgeous – while the slow-release splendour of ‘Empty Circle’ starts off like the Blue Nile and ends up in the stars, and you hope Happy Particles follow suit
BEAUTIFUL DEBUT ALBUM ‘UNDER SLEEPING WAVES’
'For a debut, Under Sleeping Waves is an stunningly assured and goosebumpingly good album...the subtlety and shimmering texture of tracks, such as “Aerials”, “Infinite Jet”, “Slowness” and “Classes in Silence”, makes Under Sleeping Waves the wish list album of the Christmas season and confirms my belief that the Happy Particles are destined for great things in 2012.'
'10 tracks of sonic beauty, mixing post rock, classical strings and glacial indie pop'
'...as standout tracks go, pretty much every one fits the bill here, with Empty Circles...showing glimpses of a more intense side to the band, and the warming atmosphere of Offline Contact fully justifying their 'ambient pop, contemporary classical' tag. But as very few bands seem to do, they save the best for last with A.M. Sky (Bleary). Sublime does not even cut it, and that's just the vocals. You won't hear a better song this year!
Under Sleeping Waves is an album which will simultaneously break your heart and gently piece it back together again. It's an album that appeals to both the music lover, and physics geek inside me. But above all, it's a album which is just absolutely stunning!'
THE SCOTSMAN/ RADAR
'...a ten-track collection of dreamy, shimmering pop. The band has a deft hand in layering up their music (something Remember Remember fans will be familiar with) and mix shoegazy potential singles with slow burners like the mentioned ‘Classes in Silence’ '
GLASGOW PODCART (Best albums of 2011)
'Dreamy, exquisite and hypnotising. This is yet to be released and will be on Christmas Day. Mark our words that you are in for a treat. It is like Low and the Beach Boys sat down, got stoned and had a jam. This is a stunning album.'
THE TIDAL WAVE OF INDIFFERENCE (BANDCRUSH)
'Under Sleeping Waves quietly emerged, blinking into the unseasonal sunlight.
A superb piece of work, its quiet, unhurried tones would surely have seen it break many’s an end year chart, so we’re endorsing the view that anything released on or after Turkeyfest should be counted for the following year’s list-making frenzy.'
'It’s fitting, really, that an album that came into the world on Christmas Day should be as magical to experience and as incomparably difficult to explain as Under Sleeping Waves. Accompanying vocals and soundscapes akin to the softly-uttered coos of Sigur Rós and Parachutes, Happy Particles create truly vast and icy tones, such as with the silvery ‘Infinite Jet’, or the translucently tender ‘Slowness’. The album’s more tranquil moments feel far from contrived – something that can rarely be said for a great deal of the often vapid ambient music out there – and the diversity of the content is truly refreshing. The gorgeous elegance of ‘Classes in Silence’, an instrumental made up of mellifluous strings, is utterly breathtaking, and racked up next to the deliciously understated ‘Reprise’ creates a portfolio of incomparably rich sounds. Laced in amongst the the mystical otherworldliness that the album is built on are the honeyed falsetto vocals and sweet harmonies that give the album a marvellous touch of Western accessibility.
Frankly, if I could use just one word to sum up Under Sleeping Waves I wouldn’t pick ethereal or ambient despite it being both of those things. No, if I had to pick one word, it would be perfect, because really, that’s exactly what it is. I can think of no other way of explaining the feeling of listening to this album other than to profess that it simply… caresses you into a state of absolute bliss, before rendering you almost paralysed as the thundering enormity of tracks like ‘Heavy Circles’ explode into life. Whether it’s counted as a late 2011 or early 2012 release, Under Sleeping Waves is a true contender for the best album of the year, and if you experience just one work of art today, make it this astounding album.'
SONGS HEARD ON FAST TRAINS
Happy Particles – Under Sleeping Waves
'I long ago stopped imagining there was any logic or fairness at work in any part of the music industry. The annual parade of televised desperation urged upon us by Simon Cowell and his band of judges is a case in point. The simple meritocratic ideal that success rewards hard work, genuine ingenuity and technically remarkable music simply doesn’t seem to hold true any more. It was with this mildly depressing realisation in mind that I read earlier in the year how Happy Particles were searching in vain for a label in a position to release their debut album “Under Sleeping Waves”. This is, after all, a sextet of established musicians of some pedigree. Sharing members with the much vaunted Remember Remember and a host of other bands over the years, there are no shortage of admirers for this almost embarrassingly skilled and rather unique outfit. But, the industry’s loss is perhaps our gain as Happy Particles have decided to self-release the album via Bandcamp on Christmas day. I know presents are best when they’re a surprise, but it’s nice to know you’re going to be getting something you’ll like…
There’s no doubt that “Under Sleeping Waves” is an amateur blogger’s dream of a record. Every adjective you’ve been saving up all year can be dusted off and applied liberally – you can call it crystalline, brittle, even perhaps glacial in places. I’m as guilty as anyone of trotting out these ethereal-sounding superlatives when faced with music I love, but this is genuinely a record it’s hard to describe in other terms. In part that’s down to Robin Sutherland‘s spacious and sensitive production, which allows this music room to breathe and grow naturally so the tendency towards the clichéd post-rock quiet/loud/quiet dynamic is resisted. That’s not to say this isn’t a record of extremes in many ways, particularly Steven Kane‘s sometimes whisper-like and sometimes soaring falsetto vocal which forms the centrepiece for opening track “Aerials”. Drifting in with minimal instrumentation, the voice does almost all of the work here and strangely blurs the lines between the mighty Sigur Rós and “Sophtware Slump”-era Grandaddy. The gentlest of reverberating drones, a hint of sorrow in the simple lyrics. As the song ends on a deliciously gloomy, sudden minor note it’s clear this is going to be pretty special. Raising the pace with an insistent, snaking bassline is “Infinite Jet”. This song has been doing the rounds in various demo versions for a while, and while I’m familiar with it in principle, it has never quite sounded this good. A tangle of clean, melodic guitar lines, an ecclesiastical organ sound, and those pure vocals echoing high in the mix. Then, suddenly the whole song begins to slow to a heart-stoppingly soporific pace, almost like a clockwork toy winding down. It’s a really strange effect, executed perfectly.
“Slowness” thunders in on dry, echoing drum beats before the bell-clear guitars set up a wintry chime. Here Kane‘s vocal is surrounded by a warming blanket of strings, as the song develops into a scaled-down symphony thanks to the quartet which adorn much of the record. The vocals take a back seat here, letting the strings and the clamour of guitars take the track spinning off to new heights. Things take a more straightforward path on “Offline Contact” which has hints of Mogwai in it’s more traditional construction. Standing out here though are some delicate shimmers of guitar, which weave around Gordon Farquhar‘s solid drum pattern. The song slowly burns away, leaving just the string quartet which soars into the utterly wonderful “Reprise” – a brief interlude of dizzyingly technical playing which provides an introduction for the slow-moving “Come Home All Dead Ones” which picks up pace enough to include a curiously bright and optimistic guitar melody. Against the gentle backdrop of strings, this echoes insistently before ebbing quietly away. And if all this quiet, reflective brilliance is getting a little too much now, “Empty Circle” takes a slightly edgier turn. Starting with a cyclical melody and a stately beat, and visiting some familiar lyrical territory for the record in lines like “she wanted to sleep/in the comfort of sorrow“, this is one track which does finally capitalise on the ever threat of explosion – but in true Happy Particles style it’s controlled, technically brilliant and movingly epic when the guitars do finally crash into the foreground. Finally “AM Sky (Bleary)” arrives, another familiar tune from it’s early demos. A deft guitar line duels with a glockenspiel, while Kane‘s vocals soar and dance around the minimal tune, reaching near impossible heights. It’s probably the most immediately accessible and the closest Happy Particles get to delivering a pop tune on “Under Sleeping Waves”, but it’s no less fantastic for that. A shimmering gem of a song which hasn’t tired from repeated listens to it’s nascent form over the last year or so.
Having read over what I’ve written above several times, I’m rather stuck here – wondering if I’ve done any kind of justice to the sublimely cool, almost Nordic beauty of this record? Equally, I’ve found myself wondering if my descriptions weren’t just a little bit too adjective-laden, and whether I’d broken the very rules I set out at the start? Whatever, the simple bottom line is that this is a multifaceted, intricate and trance-inducing work which shines with a quiet confidence and an inner warmth which is very hard to describe. You need to go and listen to this unearthly, beguiling music to even begin to understand how tricky it is to write about. After all, things born on Christmas day have a historical tendency to go down in legend, and I suspect “Under Sleeping Waves” will be no different in that respect.'
Happy Particles – Under Sleeping Waves – Review
'Here in California it is still the night before Christmas and even though ‘Under Sleeping Waves’ is downloading right now, the Happy Particles’ new record surely shouldn’t be counted as a 2011 release. I hereby petition to change the rules to reflect that anything released after December 25th counts toward the next year’s best of lists.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched ‘Inni’ just prior to sitting down to listen, but the opening bass lines of ‘Infinite Jet” quickly dispels that atmospheric comparison of the lead track ‘Aerials’. I can’t shake the feeling that I already know this voice. I can’t place it and quickly settle in. Toward the end of the song the ‘tape speed’ suddenly slows down. One can’t but help but wonder why. The third track ‘Slowness’ explains it somehow. The established pace continues with the 4th cut. It is dreamy and delicate. A little trepidation does set in though. Surely this pace won’t be maintained throughout the record? So often I battle with what I want to happen on a record and what is actually unfolding before me. ‘Offline Contact’ doesn’t really stray from what has gone on before. At this point, it is pretty clear a second pass will be necessary before I can even form an objective opinion.
The lovely string arrangements on a ‘Reprise’ raise the anticipation. In a way it all hinges on the next song. This is a very quiet introspective record. There is an undeniable beauty here and ‘Come Home all Dead Ones’ typifies just how lovely the record is. Lyrically it has not engaged me emotionally yet. The unintended comparison to Sigur Ros might be more appropriate than originally thought. I’m most familiar with the next song ‘Empty Circle’. It is an excellent song. I’d go so far as describe it as the diamond in what has been a gradual and elaborate sonic setting that has been constructed for it so far. It has a hint of an edge and it is all too easy to imagine how it would close a live set. I clearly need to lose my conception of this record as just a series of songs.
There is something impenetrable about it on the first listen. ‘Classes in Silence’ another haunting instrumental piece provides the book end to ‘Reprise’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much pressure put on a last song to inform my first opinion of a record over all. I know what I want to end the record; I really have no idea what it will be. Something hauntingly beautiful – ’10 Am Sky’ – fits the bill. It is shimmering and lovely end of a near perfect length. Then the short gap and subsequent instrumentation throws you off guard forcing you to reassess the ending again. The second listen from the top will have to wait until the morning.
Christmas morning, with the soft glow of the tablet monitor … I fully understand the first 2 and ½ songs. I know that “70 percent” of the record is ‘storyboarded’. The opening is executed brilliantly. It is as if the e ‘Infinite Jets’ slowdown toward the end of the song is somehow deliberately telling the listener that the aptly named follower ‘Slowness’ is the actual pace and heart of the album. Knowing that vinyl was likely envisioned from the beginning, ‘Offline Contact’ is a satisfying end to the first side. ”Say one thing true – I dare you” – starting to be able to see past the beauty of the vocal and appreciate the lyrics. They are broad brush strokes that can be interpreted any number of ways; they are both lovely and evocative.
The decision to start side B with ‘Reprise’ is perfect; clearly another set-piece. I have a much firmer grasp on the scale and pace of the record. It is simultaneously epic and close and introspective at the same time. I can’t wait to pick up the vinyl version of this – the record begs to be played in that format. By now it is clear how ‘Empty Circle’ shines as the centerpiece of the second movement. The static lead in and the end to the next instrumental piece is very effective as is the piece itself to continue the feel of ‘Reprise’ and set the stage for the finish and ’10 AM Sky (Bleary)’ delivers; a haunting ending to a spectacularly beautiful record.
The 2 best things about bandcamp are the ability to listen to an entire track or album and the fact that the money goes directly to the artist. There really is no point to the preceding words. I am very reluctant to even post them. They represent my inarticulate attempt to capture my feelings of the listening to the record for the first time. Countless reviews will be more eloquent and they might even mention a Sigur Ros reference or three. It is hard to imagine that this won’t hold up as being one of the best of 2012, even if I’m the only blogger who acknowledges the wisdom of that convention.'
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