Belgian trip-hoppers Hooverphonic are a good band that could be great. Give
them a few albums.
His musical roots rising straight out of rock, the band's main songwriter Alex
Callier has played in several surf bands and a Sonic Youth sound-a-like band.
Somehow Callier's good old rock 'n' roll morphed into the sampled and synthed
sound that comprises Hooverphonic's debut, A New Stereophonic Sound
The album's opener, "Inhaler," starts off with a hypnotic bass line and swirling
synthed waves of sound. A guitar comes in riffing off of the existing noise and
draws in Liesje Sadonius, whose wistful voice is the only constant on the 11
tracks that comprise A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular.
Remember Julee Cruise, the haunting voice behind the theme song to "Twin
Peaks"? Sadonius' voice is a combination of Cruise and Portishead's Beth
Gibbons. Toward the end of the song, a few sampled men's voices announce
"a new stereophonic sound spectacular, as I was saying, stereo is full of
surprises." However, as with most of the songs on this album, "Inhaler" provides
no real surprises, but rather offers up another pleasant, if not fantastic trip-
hoppy song to pop into the walkman to keep us mellow on the bus ride to work.
Hooverphonic's first single, "2 Wicky," which has scored considerable radio
air-time for the band, also held the opening spot on the soundtrack to
Stealing Beauty. The song snags a guitar sample from Isaac Hayes'
"Walk On By" and proceeds to build a blissed-out, funked-out, laze-about tune
around it, with lyrics that don't make sense, but fit the wacked out feel of the
song. "Prophet 60091-- this is the flight number of our galactic sun. Prophet
60091-- before we start you should know that you're not the only one who can
hurt me." Vocal drones fill out the background of "2 Wicky," which is one of the
strongest songs on the album.
On the other hand, "Wardrope," the third track, starts off with an annoying too-
loud-in-the-mix ping, that makes it a quick skip. "Plus Profound" propels itself
out of mediocrity with a propulsive drum beat and some indecipherable fresh
vocal raps. "Try not to lose, not to lose control" warns Sadonius in the song. A
dreamy flute-synth ushers in the song and leads us out of it.
It's hard to accurately describe the overall sound of A New Stereophonic
Sound Spectacular as each song has a completely different feel. The
fuzzy keyboard crunch of "Barabas" is a complete departure from the ambient
drone of "Cinderella." It's as if the band is searching for a sound, but in the
meantime seems content to play a little with every electronic toy. While this
makes for a somewhat confusing listen, the sound coheres around Sadonius'
"Nr 9" intros with a messy noise-rock sequence, then eases off into a
dreamscape of chorused guitars while Sadonious drawls in a mysterious
effervescent voice, "Saw her first a few months ago, spacing in Vienna--
oversea cargo. Saw her in the mirror, she has a stupid name." Obviously it's not the lyrics themselves, but the way in which they are sung, that makes these
Mildly disturbing masculine grunts kick off the growl rocker, "Sarangi." The
closest Hooverphonic get to a straight-ahead rock song, "Sarangi" contains few
samples and electronic tricks save some vocal effects and the aforementioned
"Revolver" begins with a sampled dialogue, " -- Are there any smokies with ears
on? -- If you want a smokie good buddy." Guitarist Raymond Geerts gets his day
in the sun on this tune as his slide riffing carries the weight of the song, only
breaking off for the space drum solo.
It's not exactly fair to tout Hooverphonic as a great new band. It's clear they still
need time to develop away from the chaos of their current sound. When they
find their niche, and can make every song as cohesive as "2 Wicky," then
Hooverphonic will solidify into the great band they could be.