7 October 2015, Transgressive
The buoyant, shuffle inducing sound of Hippo Campus’ first EP, Bashful Creatures, has taken a slightly different turn on their recent second, South. They retain the lofty guitar chimes, enticing melodies and Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker’s work up and down the fret board continues to remind us why we should all practice our scales. Yet South is altogether less fitful and, dare I say it, delivered with less nuanced alacrity than the debut EP.
The fresh-faced four piece are starting to sound fuller and more fluid. This is no tragic thing. The title track should ease you into a placid waking coma, one that you’d only otherwise be gifted in 30 degree heat. It drives on like air past the car window; swirling and wordless falsettos sit on top of the steady circulation of two chords. The band continue their ability to be unpredictable in each song they produce with Luppen showing us he’s not afraid to outright growl his lyrics. While ‘South’ is no doubt the highlight of the EP, ‘Dollar Bill’ treats us to some effortless interplay between choppy, percussive guitar phrases and bouncing vocals. The opening riff is injected with a heady optimism mirrored in the harmonised “With a fistful of heart/ And a pocket full of stars”.
South has its moments of continuity, as well as beauty and startling innovation
The new EP is genuinely surprising in its eclecticism. Whistler Allen’s tight, often pleasurably off kilter drum work gives way somewhat on ‘Violet’, a track that bears more resemblance to Paramore more than it does other Hippo Campus tunes. On ‘The Halocline’, an ambient 6 minute daydream, we even hear the faint shapes of a saxophone behind Luppen’s declaration that ‘we are all the halocline.’ Mysterious? Baffling? Perhaps appropriate words to hear for every listener who hasn’t a clue what is coming next.
What is clear though is this intelligent, talented band is still rooting out their sound, and they don’t intend to be cautious about it. Excited fans of Bashful Creatures might be slightly confused by the band’s progression, but there is no denying South has its moments of continuity, as well as beauty and startling innovation. Above all the record displays the admirable dexterity and restless ingenuity of four lads who are probably younger than you. I for one will be all over their UK tour this February.