HYPOMANIE, the Netherland’s finest (and only?) Shoegaze act returns with the follow up to last year’s very impressive “A City in Mono,” a sprawling release of tranquil Shoegaze dripping in the nostalgic euphoria all those Creation bands from the early nineties were renowned for. The rather extravagantly titled “Calm Down, You Weren’t Set on Fire” is much the same as its predecessor, taking those serene Shoegazing rhythms and enveloping them with gentle Post-rock influences culminating in a sound that manages to improve upon the already stirring previous album. Basically those expecting anything even remotely Black Metal will be walking away disappointed, whereas bands such as ALCEST and LANTLOS dabble with both Black Metal and Post-Rock/Shoegaze in varying degrees, HYPOMANIE have their roots planted firmly in that naive, floppy hair and skinny jeans territory.
The overall sound is a bit more full on than the last album, the guitar certainly appears to have been beefed up a touch and as this album is instrumental is the main focal point on “Calm Down...”. When cranked up it’s akin somewhat to a deluge of distorted, kaleidoscopic waves constantly surging over you, shimmering as they go. It evokes the same sort dreamy ambience that made SLOWDIVE and COCTEAU TWINS what they were, just listen to "Alissa Loves Perfume" or "Lullaby for Ian" and then anything off “Just for a Day” or “Treasure” and you’ll see what I mean, it’s exactly the sound Selwin is aiming for and he hits it pretty much bang on. The more intense sections are broken up well by some rather more Post-Rocky sections similar in style to EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY or MOGWAI and give some welcome respite now and again, for let’s face it, eight minutes of nothing but intensive feedback soaked guitar would undoubtedly become rather exhausting.
It’s difficult to pick a highlight; the album’s generally that good. "Alissa..." conjures scenes of starry skies and moonlit dreams while "Lullaby for Ian" (ignoring the toe-curling samples) draws you into its hypnotic state of wistful happiness with its heavily reverbed repetition. "Pale Blue" is similarly absorbing in its layered approach of noisy riffing and airy, twangy leads. All the songs follow pretty much the same basic ‘quiet then loud’ foundation, subtly luring you in before being assaulted by a huge crescendo of noise and distortion. The only weak link song wise would probably be "You Never Listened to the Birds" which is the shortest track here. It’s just too repetitive and basically sounds unfinished, as if it’s missing a beginning and an end. I suppose I could also have a grumble about the drum machine as well, it’s rather one dimensional and plastic but ultimately in this style of music it doesn’t really matter all that much.
“Calm Down, You Weren’t Set on Fire” is an altogether powerful and emotionally draining experience and something I would liken to an audial sedative. At times it transpires as extremely fragile and delicate, and others expansive and overwhelming. It’s a bit more dramatic than "A City in Mono" and a further step forward from it, though during my listening to the album as good as it is instrumentally I gradually began to wonder how it would sound with some Elizabeth Fraser style vocals over the top of it. I have a feeling something like that would really set off HYPOMANIE’S sound even more. But regardless "Calm Down..." is still a fantastic release and anyone who are fans of Dream-Pop acts like SLOWDIVE, PALE SAINTS and COCTEAU TWINS as well as fans of the Post-Black/Shoegaze scene should definitely find something worth their time here. And on the subject of that scene, many bands have the tag but very few bands actually deserve it. HYPOMANIE are one of the few who do.
(Online April 25, 2012)