In their bio, Canadian duo Hidden Hierarchies state that they “engage in multivariate digital alchemy.” Quite a poetic and evocative turn of phrase; one begins to imagine the possibilities. What it really means, in this case, is a mixture of Ethan Moseley‘s minimal rough-edged industrial noise, and Jeye Daye‘s vocals, which sound something like Curve‘s Toni Halliday by way of This Mortal Coil. It’s an intriguing mixture that still sounds like a work in progress, but the elements are there to create a satisfying hybrid.
Hidden Hierarchies’ debut is a self-titled EP with five tracks clocking in at nineteen minutes. Daye’s voice is the foundation, and it moves between full throaty crooning (“Not Mine”) and spoken chanting that veers close to rap (“Liar”). In an interesting technical decision, however, Moseley’s sparse and jagged loops sound much clearer and sharper, often burying the comparatively muddy vocals. While it appears that the purely electronic structures have been purposefully reduced to allow room for Daye, her promising voice struggles to be heard. When the two elements work together, as on the opener “Not Mine,” it’s easy to hear the potential. Her voice aches for atmosphere beyond crashing percussive loops, and “I Remember” dabbles in this direction to the band’s benefit, especially since the sampling is lower in the mix.
There’s some experimentation going on here as well. “War Lock” is not a Skinny Puppy cover as the title might suggest, but seems to be a curiously inspired reimagining. For my tastes, Daye’s vocals take a hit in quality when chanting; her singing voice is much more consistent. For the final track, we have the EP’s crown jewel, “Drone Thing”—a beatless affair where Daye’s low-pitched vocals swirl and glide through Moseley’s synthetic haze. The mood is thick and the evolution unpredictable; this is the band at its most inspired and creative. The “modern This Mortal Coil” comparisons are most apt here, and while there’s still a bit too much noise on the surface, the track is an example of how Hidden Hierarchies can use its strengths to maximum collaborative effect.
Bookended by a track of industrial pop and a freeform vocal drone piece, Hidden Hierarchies includes a surprisingly versatile array of styles on its first release. While this hints at a band still searching for its identity, there are plenty of promising moments to be heard. A bit of refinement in both the songwriting and production values, along with a continued indulging of the experimental, could go a long way toward creating an adventurous signature sound.
01) Not Mine
02) I Remember
04) War Lock
05) Drone Thing