Hey Mother Death – ‘Highway’

Review by Andrew Patterson

Two years after an impressive and somewhat elusive debut EP, Hey Mother Death have returned from the liminal dimensions between Paris and rural Nova Scotia, arriving via Highway. These four tracks, spanning just shy of a half-hour, find the duo mining familiar territory, albeit with a much larger scope and heightened sense of surety. The result is a seductive dance upon the planes of who-knows-where, a gentle massaging of the spheres, a sophisticated cavern smoothed by the patient swells of an ocean.

Denma Peisinger and Laurence Strelka employ hints of dub, lounge, library, psych and much more to conjure this eerie collection that feels less like a pastiche and more like pure passion. While the touchstones seem evident at times, through clever pacing and restraint, Hey Mother Death achieves a decidedly singular vision. Of what, exactly, remains deliciously veiled.

Beginning with a determined, confrontational title track, Highway leads the listener into a meditative state in which Strelka’s poetry-of-the-moment falls undusted onto an expansive floor, laid out piece by piece by Peisinger’s fractured instrumentation. The grooves settle slowly, words are reconstituted, en français, en anglais; the guitar destroys itself. Passing through ‘The Hills’, the listener finds his or herself emerging into a clearing that reveals ‘Bad Sex’ and ‘Snake Power’. Thankfully, there is more light here. Instead of falling suddenly off the edge, the bass lines roll the earth. Newly tilled gems glint in the moonlight. Animals snicker, humans included. There is a sense of buoyancy that stops just shy of optimism.

What begins as a cold discovery becomes a kind of light. The same way humour sometimes settles in the darkest corner, so Hey Mother Death sit in a cinematic noir until the insight sprouts forth. Highway is a deeply interesting record that works its spell in mysterious ways. It’s an artwork wherein cheek and tongue become indistinguishable, surface and guts meld together, the observer is entranced handily.