Album Review: The High Wire – The Sleep Tape

by Katherine

If you can’t think of a fate worse than ever having to sit through turgid stadium dwellers Coldplay’s eponymous ‘Yellow’ ever again, then the fact that blissed-out London-based band The High Wire have shared a stage with Chris Martin & Co may have you scrambling for skip button. However, put your fears aside – The High Wire’s effervescent debut is a woozy, delightfully drowsy affair sure to earn them a solid standing in the indie rock community. Chris has taste, it seems. Who would’ve guessed?

As far as obsolete genre names go, ‘Shoegaze’ is pretty useless, and it’s a tag that The High Wire has, unfortunately, been saddled with. Admittedly, ‘Shoegaze’ isn’t exactly in the same league as music journalism’s paeans of uselessness ‘shitgaze’ and ‘chillwave’, mind, but apart from alluding to an odd fascination with one’s footwear, it doesn’t exactly give the average music listener any clues as to what The High Wire actually sound like. So here’s a couple of reference points: their particular brand of sunshine-kissed guitar pop has far more in common with Beach House’s expansive dream-pop, or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s gently-soaring indie, than any kind of grimy, Neon Indian-esque bedroom experiment.

For a young band (they were only weeks old when Coldplay plucked them from the indie circuit and whisked them away on their UK tour) The High Wire are, surprisingly a perfect exercise in control and discipline – knowing just when to offset their soft-focus keyboard motifs with chiming guitar before it becomes all too saccharine, or just when to cut a spiralling strings solo short in order to maximise it’s inherent lushness – see achingly gorgeous instrumental ‘Honeycomb’, where it’s stellar combination of tumbling guitar, slowly blooming strings and pensive piano seems to know, instinctively, just when to fade out, leaving the listener gasping for more.

Or consider glorious single ‘Odds & Evens’ – there may be a considerable amount of somnambulant, synthy fug in there, but The High Wire have their melodies firmly rooted in pop – the gently insistent percussion and growling guitars quickly dispel any straying into dissonant wankery, letting the tightly braided beauty of the chorus shine through. Forget ‘Shoegaze’, this is pure, crystalline pop music – and bloody beautiful pop music at that.

To be honest, it’s hard to see how The High Wire fitted in at Coldplay’s live shows, really – Coldplay’s brash, blood-swollen, brand of stadium rock seems to leave no room for The High Wire’s whispred intimacies to shine – but, hopefully, The High Wire’s sparkling brand of indie-pop susurrus made an impression in it’s own, sleepy little way.