The Spirit of the Beehive
Strange Ranger, Brian Franklin and the Father Figures
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The Spirit of the Beehive have a fascination with contrast. The cover of their 2015 EP YOU ARE
ARRIVED (but you’ve been cheated) juxtaposes the rare beauty of an urban sewer canal during sunset,
with a washed-up body of a young woman sprawled peacefully beside some floating trash. The album
that followed, 2017’s pleasure suck, explored the sick irony of pain brought on from overindulging in bliss.
Its first track featured the line, “pleasure sucks the life out of everyone,” and the record’s erratic
nature—spontaneous shifts from flowery psych-pop into dissonant passages of grimy distortion—evoked
the discordant effect frequent substance use has on one’s psyche.
Hypnic Jerks, the Philly quintet’s third full-length and second for Tiny Engines, sounds like, as frontman
Zack Schwartz puts it, “the state between wakefulness and sleep.” It’s named after the involuntary muscle
spasms that can happen right as someone begins dozing off, a perfect feeling to compare the album’s
drowsy yet restless character to. Unlike the spiraling momentum of pleasure suck, The Spirit of the
Beehive took a more grounded approach with Hypnic Jerks, though the ground they’re standing on is
equally otherworldly. Dreamy is a fitting adjective, but the songs never fully slip into the peaceful yet
backgrounded character of dream-pop.
Rather than an ongoing fantasy, the record has the quality of an indescribable dream fading from memory
as you slowly begin to regain consciousness. Its warped guitar tones, transcendental synths, and
smattering of eerie audio samples—most come from bassist Rivka Ravede’s old family recordings, which
Schwartz sifted through and edited together—conjure this purgatorial space between reverie and reality.
An arena where their songs unexpectedly contort themselves and take on different textures, morphing in
and out of one another. These tracks were initially designed to comprise a “short mixtape,” which explains
the record’s nebulous structure. If you’re not paying close attention to the tracklist, they could easily be
mistaken for one, long song.
The first two, “nail I couldn’t bite” and “mantra is repeated,” are mid-paced, ethereal bops that sound like if
Donovan was informed by The Microphones. They verge on soothing, but they’re quickly followed by the
album’s loudest cuts; the tubular “fell asleep with a vision” and “can I receive the contact?”— the shouted
ending of the latter being the point where you realize Hypnic Jerks is, deceivingly, not an album one can
easily knock out to. “d.o.u.b.l.e.u.r.o.n.g.” begins with a minute-and-a-half- long sample of what once was
a cute recording of a grandfather narrating a visit with his grandkids. Here, the band coated it with
haunting reverb, scraped it with vocal processors, and uses it to transition into what’s both the prettiest
and grimmest pop song the Beatles never wrote. “I’m saying things all wrong / I’m doing things all wrong /
now everything is wrong,” Schwartz sings with a quivering intonation, as if he’s physically holding back
However, it’s the celestial harmonies, balmy keys and creeping false climax of album closer “it’s gonna
find you” that secures The Spirit of the Beehive a seat at this decade’s table of musical visionaries. The
track ends with a similarly whirring sample to the one the record began with, finally rocking you off to
sleep after ten songs, but leaving you with the undying curiosity to play back what you think you just
heard. Jerking your mind awake yet again. (bio by Eli Enis)
912 Red River Street
Austin, TX, 78701