The impact of Talking Heads' Remain in Light on modern music is often subtle. Its metaphorical hands
reach to many musical genres. I was most surprised and delighted to find its influence proudly
worn on the shoulders of the people who make up HIM and their album Our Point of Departure.
Beginning with Arrival, HIM layer their usual two-drummers-at-once layers of percussion, slowly
adding a guitar line reminiscent of Born Under Punches, they let these single chords rage on, circling
themselves until a beautiful narrative-born tenor saxophone cuts through the intricacy like
knife to butter, spreading the groove evenly throughout. The mind may wander through the many
elements of the song, catching the incredible drumming of Doug Scharin, the "leader" of this project
that has gone from afro dub to big band jazz to bebop and to the moon and back.
It is not only talent that ties HIM together on Our Point of Departure, it is creativity, that
particular ability to take what you are given and make something wholly original. The album is framed
in such a way that every song is set at the same tempo, when one song ends it easily becomes the next,
having been played mostly live with the requisite post-production effects one would expect from
our Chicago, IL Tortoise-related crowd.
On Liberartion Part I, Carlo Cennamo's horn is digitally manipulated to sound like the slap-happy
laughter of a foolish god, but from the distortion the rest of the band clean up with a tight bass
groove and progress the song forward, the percussion thrown all over the place.
I was lucky enough to see HIM during their tour for this, their 2000 album. In fact, that was how I
was first exposed to their sound. Whether they have five or nine musicians on stage, they are tight
and know each others' sensibilities, the musical terrain they wish to explore for the evening. Some
nights they come out strong and deeply psychedelic--trumpets, horns, drums hooked up to many layers
of effects, each sound echoing and self-distorting, leaving only the apt musician to know what direction
amongst the chaos they can lead their instrumentation.
In this incarnation, Doug Scharin (ex-June of '44 drummer) is kept in the groove by Carlo Cennamo
(sax), Fred Erskine on bass and trumpe), Sean Meadows and his guitar, and Jon Theodore
providing more percussive elements. Former members of the band have included Jeff Parker (Tortoise,
Isotope 217) and Bundy K. Brown (Tortoise, Directions in Music, Pullman).
If I were ever to direct a musical journeyman to hear the newest, most adventurous in modern jazz,
I would not hesitate to send that person to HIM's Our Point of Departure first. As a compact
musical statement (thirty-eight minutes long) filled with a variety of instruments and ideas, a
highly danceable, consistent groove, and just the right amount of psychoacoustics to enrapture
and enlighten, Our Point of Departure certainly is just that. Not as musically challenging as their
follow up, New Features (also fantastic) or as darkly mysterious as the predecessor, Sworn Eyes --
this one is a keeper. Paying its respects to electric-period Miles Davis, Talking Heads and even Middle Eastern music, Scharin
has ensured that the point of departure is also the gateway into a complex musical universe that percolates and gives birth to new life forms on its own accord.
- Liberation Part I
- Liberation Part II
- Third Wish
- Weary Not Beaten
- Persistent Life
Released September 2, 2000
by Perishible Records