Last year saw some unbelievable artists redefine the scope of their respective genres. One such band was HEO. Falling under the semi-ubiquitous label of “electronica,” HEO released Actress, the follow-up to their award-winning triumph Structure. HEO and Kim Bo-yeong continue to push for more, go further with the HEO sound. Picking up where Structure left off, HEO seems to be finding ways to reconstruct the sound to mimic the ever-changing moods of the earth, how at times we are calm and serene and at others we’re are plagued with fire and war, temperamental and emotional.
Actress is top-heavy with sweeping emotional compositions and poignant vocals. WIth Bo-yeong’s angelic voice and HEO’s comprised of deeper, more earthy tones, Actress is more than just an album exploring the richness of the genre. What we have here is a conversation between heaven and earth.
The album opens with time. More than the ticking of a clock, this is the cadence of a heartbeat, the world keeping time with one’s internal struggle for serenity. There’s incredible passion in each and every note of “The World is Calm Again.” Bo-yeong’s voice is ethereal. There’s something quite heavenly in her delivery, as if a siren song meant to lure unsuspecting listeners to her shores.
Tracks like “Pyre,” “Cave on the Shore,” and “How to Hear from You” seemingly grew from the ground up, all dirt, rock, and fire. I hear a lot of Björk in these songs, sounds quite reminiscent of Médulla—music stripped down to its most primal elements. There’s a heavy melodic hum buzzing throughout these tracks. “Pyre” makes use of the hollow warble of synthetic brass at its foundation, calling to mind the whine of a bassoon or the boom of a trombone. In “Cave on the Shore” the drum machine and use of the darker synth tones during the pre-chorus push the melody. There are glimmers of “Where Is the Line” here, a song rife with sweeping composition that almost swallows Bo-yeong’s pretty soprano, instead carrying it along as if a passenger on a freight train.
The use of broken beats and syncopated rhythms connects the music to the world around us. Meanwhile, the otherworldly blend of the Bo-yeong’s voice and some of the more synth-heavy tracks provides the perfect counterpoint to these more grounded compositions. Her voice is like the moon to the tide—an astral body directly influencing the movement of all the smaller bits that make up the earth.
Following tracks like this with the breathy depth of HEO’s own vocal performance adds another dimension to the album. Actress is most certainly a multifaceted piece of music, an exploration of the dichotomy of the expansion of the universe and the relative smallness of a single planet. While there are some tracks that are more “traditionally” electronica—depending more on an audience’s understanding of the genre and adding small spoonfuls of nuance (“Mono Sand Hill,” and “Eikonal”)—by and large the album is comprised of tracks that reach into the core of a listener, shifting emotions as the tectonic plates shift to create a rumble in the earth. Tracks like “This Obsession” and title track “Actress” really could topple buildings, the emotional weight and heavy boding in each line striking a note deep enough to affect the very foundation of a person.
Actress certainly earns its namesake. From the first few seconds of the album, in which we hear a clock as it slowly ticks away the ebb and flow of time, to the final notes, the album is theatrical, grandiose, overindulgent in all the best ways. While the band is most commonly categorized as electronica, HEO showcases the inherent broadness of the label with the opening notes of Actress and continues to defy genre boundaries as the album thrums along. There’s a definite pulse to HEO’s music, as if each note is a living, breathing thing.
- The World is Calm Again
- Mono Sand hill
- Cave on the Shore
- Sleep Tight
- This Obsession
- Running Through the Night
- How to Hear from You