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His Name Is Alive - The Eclipse

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Artist: His Name Is Alive

Album: The Eclipse

Label: Silver Mountain

Review date: Jan. 7, 2011

Originally one of the ten discs in the super-rare The Eclipse ceramics box, Warn Defever of His Name Is Alive subsequently resurrected The Eclipse in mid-2010 as a limited CD-R set, which disappeared faster than you can say “ghosts of collectors past.” It’s now available as a download from his Silver Mountain Media Group, and though it pains me to direct you to such a dematerialised form of the record, with His Name Is Alive, one of the most confusing and unique presences in pop’s underbelly, ultimately it’s a case of when, not if.

Unlike its predecessors Detrola and Xmmer, The Eclipse is initially unyielding, a self-contained world unto itself, surprisingly resistant to entry. If His Name Is Alive’s recent form has been relatively open, full of blazing pop songs, repetitive mbira melodies, and sideways soul shouters, The Eclipse returns to the denuded song forms of earlier records like Livonia and Home Is In Your Head. The key difference being, those albums were coated in the patented 4AD gloss of ethereality, where now His Name Is Alive is comparatively disarmed.

What does yield with time is The Eclipse‘s hermeticism, and once you’re deep inside the folds of these songs, inhabiting their simple guitar phrases, wreaths of strings, and unmoored drones, Defever’s songs reveal their secrets. With the exception of the blasting “Dreem Rememberer,” where we’re reminded that His Name Is Alive can be an absolutely caning rock group, there’s something oddly liturgical about the melodies that lap and eddy The Eclipse‘s shores. “Vanilia” hymns heartbreak to a pirouetting string arrangement; “Dream Tiger” has massed voices steadily charting a melody that’s first outlined by the dinkiest of Casio sounds, then slowly swallowed by an encroaching bass hum.

“Tell Me Why You Want To Save Me” peels language from the throats of the choir, who hum an elegiac melody to a ghostly piano, played from deep inside a deserted barroom. It’s a lovely little interlude that sets up the album’s title track and masterpiece, where Defever’s guitars crochet a carillon melody that interlocks, slowly grows, drinks the energy charging from distortion pedals, and then recedes into a wall of sound of its own making. It reminds a little of David Pajo’s Papa M, but has a wistfulness of tone that is very much Defever’s own.

As a closing imprimatur for this unassuming album, “The Eclipse” is a perfect gambit — the gentle kindness of Defever’s patchwork guitars, eclipsed by a rush of blissed-out noise. It may be a hard album to get to know at first, but stick with it — The Eclipse is one of His Name Is Alive’s most intimate and compassionate albums.

By Jon Dale

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