Getting out of my “comfort zone”, this debut album from the artist Hite, is something different for me and is as interesting as it’s intriguing. Julia Easterlin, who is Hite, did her earlier work by combining looping and layering her voice to create her music. On Touristes, an album done under her own name in collaboration, she began to move away from what she calls “the looping artist pigeonhole”. The current incarnation of her work, Hite, is more of a vehicle for lyrical expression. This record, Light Of A Strange Day, she says, “is a natural progression, away from loops and into more flexible, expressive forms of storytelling. In the making of the album, I left behind all my familiar tools (loops, computer, effects pedals, rhyming lyrics) and played only acoustic instruments; one take, one mic, open ended, stream-of-consciousness. It was a completely different approach to music making, and releasing it under the Julia Easterlin name (which is so attached to loops and upbeat, poppy vocal music) felt somehow… dishonest. It’s been a decade since I wrote my first piece of looped vocal music, and I needed a fresh new home for my new music; so different from previous work.” The songwriting process further explained, “In all my other work, I’ve recorded the music after having performed it at a number of shows. I know how it lands with a live audience, I know if it’s something people enjoy hearing. For Light Of A Strange Day, the songs were barely formed when I brought them in for recording.” And for this first entry as Hite, the Georgia-born artist has sculpted something fully-formed and refreshing to these ears.
Case and points: the opening track, “Eliza Jane”, which has vocal layers that tend to offset themselves with percussion and loops/splice of freeform jazz bits is instantly enveloping; her voice(s) are warm and inviting; “If You Begin To Notice” has nuances like the sound of breathing; a “close up” delayed quasi-lead vocal in a whisper and a distant musical background that’s both haunting but not intrusive and “Light” is fairly straightforward – driven with an acoustic guitar and some highly melodic and lovely background fills (sounds like keyboards, etc. – the vagueness of what the exact instruments makes it more interesting). “Miss You” is uptempo; a musical loop and Ms. Easterlin’s self-harmonies are terrific – I love the echo effect and melody – and note how the soundscapes come in towards the latter-half of the song and “Try”, which opens with a just piano and Ms. Easterlin’s bluesy vocal, and is a perfect way to end this album.
Between the ambient textures and the perfectly balanced production, Julia Easterlin as Hite offers up a stellar debut. Give it a listen; I don’t think it’s too difficult to find a place for it in your head.
Light Of A Strange Day is currently available