A friend on the internet recently asked the hivemind about words we use to describe the “essential but obscured aspect of something.” This sounds esoteric but it’s not; words like “essence,” “gist,” “thrust” “tone” and “mood” are commonplace to reference what’s at the heart of the thing, even if it’s not obvious on the surface. But I feel like there’s no word in English that quite does the same job as “vibe,” which is this kind of new-agey way of alluding to the fundamental quality of (and feeling instilled by) a thing. In 1893, during the western occult revival, Frank Earl Ormsby advised us to “receive all of the good vibrations that spirits can give” and in 1966 the Beach Boys assured us that an unnamed female was giving them good vibrations, too. We’ve internalised the idea of “the vibe,” to the point where it’s acceptable in an Australian court of law. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJuXIq7OazQ
Perth duo Long Body (comprising Deni and Tim from Mental Powers) profess a ‘Hi Vibe’ when it comes to their debut EP. Does this mean the vibe is “high” as in, very positive? Or is it the vibe of a greeting - “Hi (hello), we’re Long Body” - or is it a reference to the Hi-Vibe fruit juice juicery in Chicago? All seem perfectly likely and not incompatible. In any case, there’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek embrace of that new agey vagueness, a sense of good-natured humour that infuses the EP and gives it its distinctive, er, “essential but obscured aspect.” And just like the EP’s physical release, this review comes later than it ought to, but the ‘Hi Vibe’ seems to be all about a leisurely world far away from deadlines, so I figure I’m reviewing it in the spirit that was intended.
Opener ‘On a Big Trip,’ is an undulating house number characterised by its fluffy hi-hats, its gooey bass notes, its languorous synth-piano and a staircase-shaped whistling melody line. Unashamedly cheery and wilfully summery, it’s a kind of beachside cruise made up of all synthetic sounds, so as to become a kind of hardware-heavy, studio simulacra of outdoorsy joy. Dusk begins in the final 30 seconds, as mangrove birds commence their evening warble and the jet ski is laid to rest.
A similar mood imbues ‘Fuzzy Logic,’ though it comes in lighter on the low-end, drifting at a downtempo pace, but still with that kind of vacationer aesthetic. A canned-sunshine soundtrack for a getaway that may or may not have ever happened. ‘Stay Vacation’ snorkels even deeper into the quirks of soft-rock / exotic house escapism, with finger clicks, funky guitar, incensed ambience and synth-vox burbling over a fat gated snare. Reflective closer ‘Endless Going’ pits a pseudo-gamelan rhythmic cycle against a sparse ascending bass line and warm, rounded percussion - a silvery shimmer on the horizon.
As a listener I can sit back and just enjoy the beauty of this aurally lovely, well-crafted EP. As a writer I’m impelled to wonder about the duo’s conceptual agenda. Do Long Body simply want us to feel the carefree joys of a tropical holiday? Or - by foregrounding the electronic artifice of the way the mood’s been evoked - are they inviting us to question the implications of middle-class pina colada utopia? Fitting perhaps that in amongst the holiday-centric titles is ‘Fuzzy Logic,’ describing a system dealing with ‘degrees of truth,’ speaking to the way in which these breezy jams exist in a dialectic of sincerity and play, rather than being strictly earnest or jokey in their affect. Gone are the days of naivety when it comes to channeling international musics, or embracing globalism and travel as a kind of unifying dream. But “balearic” beat music seems to boast a singular appeal here and now, either because, or in spite of, its surface-level sunny simplicity. With 'Hi Vibe,' Long Body investigate this strange situation in a way that’s open-ended, artful, and incredibly fun.