Monday, September 22, 2014

Hands Like Houses 
(EP Review)

Review by Matt Doria [@DEEninetysix]

Having listened exclusively to death metal and hardcore music all day, I was excited to listen to the new release Hands Like Houses. At five tracks spanning just under twenty minutes, ‘Reimagine’ is a stunningly refreshing take on Hands Like Houses’ alternative esque post-hardcore sound. The EP is composed of five tracks from their 2013 record ‘Unimagine’ completely reinvented from the ground up, save for lyrics. While the lyrics remain the same across all five songs, the music behind the songs on this record is a far cry from their original counterparts, each reincarnation sounding like an entirely new song.

The base for ‘Reimagine’ is proudly acoustic, but there is much, much more to the EP than some gracefully strummed strings and lightly tapped tambourines. No, each song is fully fleshed out, and every element of each song is heavily considered, and defined perfectly throughout. Highlighting this is the opening track ‘Recollect’, a reimagining (pun intended) of ‘Shapeshifters’. It’s worlds apart from the original tune, to begin with. It lives within an acoustic environment, but guitars are layered as they would be in a regular non-acoustic HLH track, and drums, while slower than one expects to see from Hands Like Houses, are still signature and absolute.

As the EP progresses, it starts to wear out. However, it never loses its traction - the EP as a collective package borders on repetitiveness, but alone, each song has a unique identity which brings new elements to the foreground. ‘Revive’, a recreation of ‘Introduced Species’ proves one thing especially: Trenton Woodley has a ferociously beautiful voice. Like... Woah! He’s already known for his heart melting vocal skills, though ‘Reimagine’ is unmistakably the most pure and perfectionate we’ve ever heard them. If you’re stressed out, or in dire need of relaxation, a listen of ‘Reimagine’ is a great place to start. It’s such a relaxing record, it’s impossible not to feel completely chilled out when you’re listening to it.

Case and point, ‘Rediscover’, a fresh take on ‘No Parallels’. There are occasional bells and underlying jungle vibes that transport the listener to another world, one with sunny skies, relaxing springs and columns infinite of tall, brushing palms. ‘Release’, which reinvents ‘A Tale Of Outer Suburbia’ is one track on the EP I can’t get into. It deserves your attention for at least one play, but in the end, it’s nothing special. ‘Reflect’, a retake on ‘No Parallels’ on the other hand, is a soothing melody that ends ‘Reimagine’ on an elegant, symphonic note.

The EP is unlike anything Hands Like Houses have released in the past, but it’s unmistakably Hands Like Houses. To summarise, it is as though we are listening to the Hands Like Houses of an alternate universe. The release may not be preferable over their signature heavier sound, but it’s definitely an intriguing departure that longtime fans of the band will feel at home with, without new listeners feeling isolated. The highlight track from the EP would have to be ‘Recollect’, which is, in this writer’s honest opinion, far superior to its original counterpart.

Rating: 8.5/10

‘Reimagine’ is out now on Rise Records.