Friday, 24 June 2011

Hospital Neon - 'Numbers On My Skin' Review

Hospital Neon
Numbers On My Skin
Bearsuit Records

I often marvel at the array of records I get sent through; especially how they are presented. As I have made clear on several occasions, a little bit of effort goes a long way. A handmade sleeve, the proper sleeve even, a handwritten note; anything other than a CDR will instantly score you a point.

I always thought that was the case until I received ‘Numbers On My Skin’, which features what is most likely the worst record sleeve I have ever seen in my entire life. It physically assaults my eyes as I remove it from the jiffy bag, a pure heart of revulsion, an utterly disgusting example of ‘graphic design’. A closer look tells me a ‘design company’ actually did this. Good Lord. As first impressions go, it’s pretty damn terrible and already Hospital Neon have an uphill battle.

Thankfully a little research into the label releasing it, Bearsuit Records, increases interest; a Scottish Indie Label (the best type) that deals in with music ranging ‘from the cut and paste surrealism of the Japanese/UK duo Kirameki and the experimental pop of Bunny & the Electric Horsemen’ That’s more like it. There’s hope yet.

Hospital Neon appear to be a studio based duo, dealing in appropriately odd, mildly progressive, vaguely soundscapey / ambient pieces. With the gentle, deep drawl of the lead vocals and the irregular backing it brings to mind ‘1. Outside’ era Bowie, a prevailing sense on menace engulfing the EP. It gets better as it goes on, the initial openings sounding like the ‘atmospheric’ button has been pressed on ProTools, giving us some standard reverb, as opposed to any real atmosphere being produced. 2nd track ‘Here in Heaven We Are’ has a hiss that appears a few seconds in that is surely a sign of poor production, so I’m left not sure how serious this is. Is it a bedroom project? Is it someone learning how to use their studio and these are the results?

The 2nd half improves as HN find a comfort zone in layering weird noises within the relative safe confines of a route 1 ‘sinister bassline’ that kind of recounts ‘Tunnel’ by Pulp. ‘Beam me up Scotty, Fuck me up Spock’ he sings.

There is potential here, without a doubt. The amount of ideas, and good ones too, bouncing around is impressive. It just feels a little directionless, though I get the feeling Hospital Neon probably listen to records I’ve never heard of so perhaps I don’t get it. However, probably the best thing about this is the discovery of Bearsuit Records who are the record label mad enough to put it out – and I mean that as a compliment. I can honestly say I’ve never had anything like this fall on my door mat before, for which they must be commended. Just send me a CDR next time, and spare my eyes.

Dean Freeman

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