S.Carey - Hoyas [EP]
There's normally a mention of Bon Iver somewhere in an S.Carey review, so let's get it out of the way now: Sean Carey has been one of the mainstays of that band after approaching Justin Vernon following an early Bon Iver show – revealing that he'd picked apart For Emma, Forever Ago and learned the album piece by piece. Usually a drummer, Carey also turns his hand to other instrumentation and vocals (and is now the band 'director' of Bon Iver tours), and a recent recording at AIR studios features only Carey and Vernon beautifully and brilliantly reinterpreting some songs from Bon Iver with dual piano and voice. And so, here we are at Carey's new EP Hoyas, the follow-up to Carey's debut album – which he somehow managed to find the time to make in 2010 –and is co-produced by Vernon.
Whilst that debut All We Grow was ostensibly a kind of modern American folk music, it was filtered through the work of repetitive modern classical composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and the same influence is on show here again, although this time the music has an electronic flavour and Carey's beautiful voice is manipulated and autotuned – but thankfully not to the point that it becomes an irritation, and his soaring vocals remain a delight. It's a warm and welcoming listen, suitably so as Carey and cohort Ben Lester recorded the EP in an attic with just a computer microphone to pick up the instrumentation.
Opening track 'Two Angles' is an understated beginning, the pop-and-snap of the R&B groove and gleaming electro influenced by Carey and Vernon's work with Gayngs. The sinister and muttered vocals are complemented by great stabs of brass and spidery guitar lines, both looped to create a spiralling outtro that's a real delight to listen to. 'Avalanche' is a more upbeat affair, using a simple thumping beat that recalls LCD Soundsystem at their most stripped back, and Carey's autotuned vocals, to create a chilly dancefloor track that stuns when simple piano chords drop like tears from nowhere and replace the beat, and Carey's voice is joined briefly by a female-sounding vocal as the track fades out. It's brilliant, beautiful stuff, and there's almost a sense of disappointment when the music fades up into the moody 'Inspir', with Carey intoning something about "treetops," but that song reveals interesting layers after a few listens when you suddenly hear two or three different rhythms at work under the glacial synth washes. Final track 'Marfa', written for the town in the high desert plains of West Texas, is a spine-tingling ending to the EP. As the gentle track burbles to a close, Carey's double-tracked vocals soar, twist and meld with the backing, creating a gorgeous whole.
What could have turned out to be a risky step in another direction for S.Carey has turned out to be a stroke of brilliance; Hoyas is a small delight that confirms Carey's towering talent, and has that rare knack of making an electronic record feel naturalistic. Here's hoping for a bit more Bon Iver downtime, we could do with a whole album of this.