Real Smiles For Us
- Reviewed by Tara Choudhary -
Imagine an eccentric, enigmatic lovechild of synthesisers and animation. With that combination, you have HEKA, a Bristol-based band that have (just last week) released their debut single ‘Fake Smile’ for the world to hear. With influences including The Cure, Wild Beasts and Depeche Mode, this five-piece band was born out of an organic desire to just create and do something they love, and that sheer enthusiasm for the act of music-making comes through immediately with this debut single.
The song begins mysteriously with a synth loop that gradually grows louder, building up a strange tension. It's a beginning that sounds as if aliens with an excellent taste in music began playing their tunes as they made a long-awaited descent onto Earth. A strong bass accompanies synthesiser sounds to lay a preface for the rest of the song, which only adds layers of more synths, guitar riffs, steady drumwork and most prominently, vocals by frontman Anton Larkin. HEKA neatly executes a tricky juxtaposition by combining mystical electronica with alternative rock, and the use of Larkin’s mellow vocals orchestrates this superbly well. His voice comes as an emotional surprise, effectively conveying the sentiments of an apprehensive and disconcerted persona, with a strong undertone of existentialism present throughout the song.
The band has emphasised that animation is as integral a part of what they do as the music itself, which is evident from the visual wonderland that is ‘Fake Smile’s music video. Created from the mind of SMPM favourite Tom Sharp - following on perfectly from the artist's collaborations with moa moa - this project is colourful, confusing and captivating. The visuals are vibrant and fantastically well-made, but enjoy an air of almost random-ness in their other-worldly nature. However, this works perfectly in favour of exactly what HEKA are trying to do. The confusion in this case is captivating rather than vexatious; so intriguing in design that it compels you to go back to them to learn more. I found myself going back to it multiple times, almost trying to decipher the creativity of Sharp and HEKA.
‘Fake Smile’ is a catchy tune, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself singing it in the shower after I’d heard it just twice. I particularly enjoyed the band’s clever use of dynamics to intensify or subdue the tension at different points in the song, and the track's build up to a point of vocal and instrumental climax gives the listener a more-than-adequate electronic release. Listening to the song was like swirling round and round in a magical, musical abyss- however I did find it a tad bit repetitive at some points and had me hoping for more from HEKA's thumping grooves and the deep pools of their synthesiser instrumentation.
Nevertheless, this is only the beginning for HEKA and with the promising entrance they've made with ‘Fake Smile’, I’m looking forward to hearing what they have in store for us next.
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Tara Choudhary is a second-year student at King’s College London, who euphemises her indecisiveness by saying she studies the Liberal Arts. She enjoys music, theatre and basically anything she can categorise as “not math”.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford.