Album Review: Hookworms – Microshift
It was debatable how far forward Hookworms could have propelled their career had they restricted themselves to the sprawling – if somewhat limiting – vibe of their previous records. Sure enough, this make-or-break moment is bounded over with ease, as the band reengineer their airy, faraway mind-trip music into a more claustrophobic, organic kraut-math-pop, with any haze that previously obscured their sound having naturally cleared.
Initially most striking are the vocals’ immediacy and – crucially – their discernibility, which lends them an earnest, personal warmth; track ‘The Soft Season’ even brings to mind Animal Collective in its joyous vocal melodies. There is still room for experimentation, however, with one foray into a monotone plainchant (‘Boxing Day’) and haunting layered echoes of tropical shoe-gaze melodies (‘Each Time We Pass’).
Painting the backdrop to this are the band’s trademark measured organ chords, while ‘Reunion’ shows they don’t quite want to let go of the ambient soundscapes that added to the depth and character of their previous work. Off-beat bleeps and hums now dot each song, while glorious sunlit keys illuminate the record’s darkest corners.
Throbbing, depth-charge bass notes pulse like a heartbeat – the motorik rhythms of ‘Static Resistance’ ringing clear and ‘Ullswater’ – with the latter boasting an imminently groove-able 9/8 jam. Ullswater in particular boasts beats that are relentless in their constructive, layering power. Mixing up the the instrumentals further, it’s the bass guitar that takes centre stage in album closer ‘Shortcomings’, framing a twitchy, driven lead line over choppy chords.
Rather than the rough slipstreams of records past, however, Microshift’s smoother and more relaxed production brings to mind a soft glide over a blank landscape, rushing to a glorious dawning climax on the horizon – summoning the underlying rhythmic skeleton – a shift to a new era. It can be daunting getting into Hookworms upon listening to previous works but Microshift sees a nice change, albeit still wholly experimental.