Album Review: Highasakite – Camp Echo

Published On June 8, 2016 | By Michael Smith | Albums, Music

With a gigantic dedicated following in their native Norway, increasing exposure within Australia and more international attention on the horizon, Highasakite find themselves at a very important stage in their career. This seems to be something they’re taking into account as a band, as well: Their latest album Camp Echo represents an evolution in sound and style, replacing the natural folk-pop stylings of Silent Treatment with something more modern, electronic and striking. Camp Echo is far from being Highasakite’s sell-out album, however; in fact, it’s the best work they’ve ever done.

Highasakite Camp EchoTo summarise, the major change on Camp Echo is the shift to an electronic style that feels much less natural; the style, however, melds perfectly with their image as a band and provides their same style in a different, refreshing image. The second My Name Is Liar opens the album, the changes are apparent. The frantic, synthetic beats and torrents of reverb that cover the vocals give the song a dark, modern edge that keeps its instrumental accompaniments simple yet effective; vocalist Ingrid Helene Håvik takes centre stage on the track, and her unique, accented vocals give the simple instrumental the power and attitude it needs to thrive.

Even on the album’s prettier upbeat tracks, it retains an edge that makes them interesting. Deep Sea Diver is full of small yet powerful melodies and beats that give the song a bouncy aquatic feel, with its explosion of mystical power leading into its chorus bringing an already strong song into truly heart-stopping territory; its ambiguous lyrics speak of bondage and brainwashing, never to a deep or well-explained end, but one that paints a much more serious picture than its joyous instrumental. I Am My Own Disease is similarly upbeat, though much simpler and more straight-forward in its pop arrangement and with much more obvious lyrics, with the subject of the song talking about their own limitations, flaws and issues; the juxtaposition in their upbeat songs is one of the major things that makes their music so interesting, and the constant references to the world’s current flawed state are all woven seamlessly into the songs so they make perfect sense.

The album’s only confusing moment is God Don’t Leave Me Now, though for unexpected reasons. By itself, it may be one of the album’s strongest songs, with nothing but a simple electronic thunk of percussion and a simple keyboard melody accompanying Håvik’s vocals, but the song’s use of layers and reverb on the vocals create a powerful, lingering moment that shines above its meagre accompaniment. Though the song does eventually fill out for its finale, it’s a mood-setting moment that shows extremely intelligent use of elements; it feels perfect for the closing slot of the album, which makes its placement as the centrepiece somewhat confusing. Its juxtaposition with I Am My Own Disease, however, gives it a new vibe that benefits the album in a way that being its final track wouldn’t, and in turn highlights the beauty of the package as a whole.

The many layers of Camp Echo, both lyrically and instrumentally, give the album a unique feel in the modern synthpop world that truly feels refreshing. Each song rests on its own merits yet merges with the entire package in a way that makes the entire album flow seamlessly, with no moment feeling weaker than that which came before it and no track feeling out of place. By taking the transition into synthpop and merging it with their own existing characteristics as a band, they’ve created a sound that truly defines them and suits their message perfectly. Camp Echo is a prime example of synthpop done right by a band that clearly knows what it wants to accomplish.

5 / 5 stars     

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