The questions about Higher Authorities’ Neptune – the band’s debut release – start right at the beginning: the album art. Why are there three pineapples on the cover? Why does one of them have a Dali moustache, and why on Earth is it smoking a reefer? It’s at about this point that you realise you don’t actually know who Higher Authorities are but, take solace, barely anyone else does either; the label isn’t exactly saying, and all the internet is faintly whispering is that the Liverpudlian duo may be Adrian ‘Ade’ Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley of psychedelic rock group Clinic. May be. *shrug*
If there is a psychedelic lo-fi electronica shaped hole in your music library then Neptune may very well prove to be the album that completes you, as it certainly is those things. Oddly – if anything beyond this point may be described as odd – opening track, Another time, Another place, is a surprisingly gentle and pleasing introduction, built around a good solid beat and funky rhythms, its six minute run time doesn’t feel especially long. Following track, Twilight (In Luminous Lodge), with its wah effected guitar over vintage drum machine – replete with tinny high-hat – and bored, with a hint of staccato, vocal delivery is just annoying. By the time third track, Colour, closes Higher Authorities have thrown everything in their arsenal at you: solid beats, vintage drum machines, vintage synths and organs, whiney and mumbled vocals, and sound effects set to 11. From here out it’s just the combinations that differ.
The Clone and If demonstrate that Higher Authorities can combine their sonic elements in compelling ways, comfortable enough for non-psychedelia fans to enjoy easily, but strange enough to whet an appetite for musical exploration, and these songs form a solid core for the rest of the album to orbit. Abracadabra is startlingly catchy with quirky percussion, and the song begins to reflect the listener’s questions back at them with lyrics like “just who could you be”, “was it amazing/was it delightful”. In many ways Abracadabra is Neptune’s statement of intent.
Neptune is scheduled for release on April 20 which is, apparently, an international cannabis users holiday, and this fact just adds to the sensation that Higher Authorities might be making a joke. Like all good British humour it would be a very, very, dry joke, and one that borders on satire given how serious and earnest it all feels. Then again, it may just be musical experimentation and nothing more. Weirdness for weirdness’ sake. It will no doubt fall to both time and personal preference to decide between those two possibilities.