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HiM - Many in High Places Are Not Well

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Artist: HiM

Album: Many in High Places Are Not Well

Label: Bubble Core

Review date: Sep. 1, 2003

A Powerful Pronoun

Welcome to the wondrous world of HiM, a spacious yet dizzying place where drummer extraordinare Doug Scharin (along with a cast of friends) indulge in a funky fusion of world rhythms, west coast jazz cool and ambience. Though Scharin started the band as a bedroom project to fulfill his dub jones in between playing with Codeine, Rex and June of 44, HiM as since broaden its scope and membership. It seems since the end of June of 44, HiM has steadily moved with each new release from backburner side project to full-time importance. Scharin is adding a lot more to the pot this time on Many in High Places Are Not Well, creating his own strange bitches’ brew. Taking on the role of musical alchemist, Scharin works with basic elements and shapes them into sometimes recognizable, but often times not, amalgamations of music styles. Percolating with ideas and an arsenal of talented co-conspirators, HiM seems to draw not only from the musicians’ many projects (Out of Worship, Chicago Underground Duo, Isotope 217) but also from the legends like King Sunny Ade, August Pablo and Sonny Sharrock.

HiM doesn't skimp when it comes to layering instrumentation. Where earlier albums idled in the creation of efficient and intricate minimalism, Many in High Places sees the band incorporating loops, electronics and vocals in a more pronounced fashion. While many of the songs are filled with a variety of odd time signatures and key changes, it’s Scharin's use of dub techniques that propel this project past its ancestors.

With one ear capturing the musicians’ collaborative potion and the other deftly mixing it, Scharin has succeeded where many of his fellow Chicago counterparts have failed. The orchestration on Many In High Places exudes a warmth sometimes missing in the Windy City. In juxtaposition are the cold, cerebral touches added by electronics, which things from falling too far into the realm of the obvious. Even while tackling a multitude of styles, sometimes in a single song, the group demonstrates well-placed restraint, allowing their influences to shine through without gratuitous conflation.

The dark and brooding jazz noir "Perspective From a Slow Spin" easily dissipates giving way to the African Highlife influences of "Elope and Secede", allowing the band to use their varied and intricate muses to give the album a sense of internal dynamics. Filtering in touches of Fripp-tronics, Rob Mazurek's lyrical cornet, dub toasting, and cut-and-paste vocals, Many In High Places Are Not Well is another enticing spell in the saga of musical alchemy.

By Paul Burress

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