Funereal bedroom songs are the order of the day for Ivan Heemskirk. Via his Order Anura outlet, this Michigan solo artist has created a bleak and chilling debut album which he recorded “very slowly” in his apartment.
A church organ melody lights up ‘Fiercely Aglow’, adding a richness and warmth to contrast with Heemskirk’s thin vocals, which recall Bernard Sumner’s early efforts behind the mic. Yet even though it would be stretching it a bit to compare the approach to Joy Division, Heemskirk seems to be striving for the same spiritual vibe as ‘Atmosphere’ and sometimes doesn’t fall that short of such a lofty target. Thanks to its spare, gospel-like arrangement, ‘Where You Are’ could have been recorded in the 1950’s; Heemskirk’s tones are more strident this time and form an important part in making this track one of the more optimistic-sounding efforts.
Stylistically, the songs vary little as one murmured vocal accompanies another grand keyboard melody and events take an even darker turn on the second half of the album. Firstly, on ‘Time Will Bend’, as the singer bemoans “You are so far away”, the ability to haunt the listener becomes stronger. ‘Underwater’ is appropriately submerged in distortion as our hero’s soliloquies appear to be sinking into the depths of the abyss; an idea confirmed by the despairing aura of the last of Heemskirk’s self-written pieces, ‘Helpless’. Bizarrely, the album ends with a version of Nintendo Gameboy tune; presenting a somewhat incongruous footnote to what has gone on before.
In terms of emotional reach, Order Anura isn’t as convincing as last year’s Black Walls’ magnificent ‘Communion’ but then little music is, in fairness. However, within the limited confines of his bedroom studio and inevitable lo-fi production, Heemskirk has developed his own world of gloomy processional music. This could have been a depressing listen but the warmth and intimacy of these songs presents a surprisingly moving experience.
Order Anura Bandcamp
Joy Division, Black Walls, Tyler Sullivan