The Dutch one man band Hypomanie started out as a black metal act with some post-rock influences. Over the years, Selwin Hageraats’s project has traversed the “post-black metal” middle ground and come out the other side, now producing purely instrumental post rock/shoegaze recordings. However, Hypomanie’s journey into post-rock has not been a story of development and progression but rather one of shamelessly mimicking the genre’s big names.
Hypomanie’s second post rock album (and third full length overall) Calm Down, You Weren’t Set on Fire is the definition of a generic post rock LP. There is no element of this album that isn’t lifted from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. There’s clean, watery rhythm guitars, fuzzy, shimmering leads and light, breezy drumming. Most of the time Hypomanie just sound generally generic, but there are a few moments when Selwin literally lifts a passage from a Godspeed record. For example, the wailing background guitars on “You Never Listened to the Birds” are copied directly from the Godspeed song “Sleep”. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Hypomanie even copy Godspeed in employing sound bites throughout their album; however, instead of the captivating samples from holly rollers, street folk and rambling poets that one finds on Godspeed recordings, Hypomanie provides us with samples from some crappy indie romance film. No moment of Calm Down, You Weren’t Set on Fire is more painful than the passage in “Lullaby for Ian” when a British man gently whispers to some girl, “Do want to sleep over tonight? Because if you did, it’d be OK.” Couldn’t he have at least picked a better pickup line?
Another problem with Calm Down, You Weren’t Set on Fire is that the sound quality is pretty poor. The distorted guitars lack weight and sound shaky. Sometimes, (i.e. “You Never Listened to the Birds”) it sounds like the recording didn’t manage to capture the guitar’s full range, resulting in an awkward, choppy sound quality. The drums should be stronger in the mix as well. Furthermore, the musicianship is far too junior league to justify making an instrumental album. While the performance is clean and technically sound, there are not nearly enough risks or experimentation to keep the listener’s attention. The music is safe and simple, which isn’t exactly what one is looking for in an instrumental rock album.
It’s often exciting when a band changes genres. However, if the band literally has nothing original to bring to its new home, one has to wonder what the point is. Certainly, Hypomanie fails to challenge the standards of post-rock in any way and moreover, fails to even execute the standard form with any insight. If there is a place for Hypomanie in the house of post-rock, it’s certainly somewhere deep the basement.
Written by Jael