Heavy Heavy

Feb 02, 2023
Web Exclusive

By Chris Thiessen

Young Fathers are masters of chiaroscuro, commanding the darkness with frenetic percussion and pulsating electronics that drill deep into caverns until they find an opening and let a single beam of light flood the expanse. The spontaneously soulful trio glory in harmony through contrast, unity through eclecticism, revolution through dance. On their previous release, 2018’s Cocoa Sugar, this paradoxical drama of darkness and light plays out like a subterranean stream gurgling just under the surface—the drums simmering with potential energy and the three singers’ vocal lines simply floating, weightless. But on Heavy Heavy, the group’s fourth proper album, that stream blasts geyser-like through the earth’s crust, bursting with radiant joy that somehow feels supernatural.

Heavy Heavy further refines the focused song structures the Scottish experimenters employed on their last record. These songs are tight—the longest track, “Drum,” clocks in at 3:39—yet there’s nothing restrained about this record. The drums and percussion on that track—as well as early single “I Saw,” “Rice,” and others—are absolutely massive, propelling the album skyward and necessitating the most passionate of dances. When joined with the choruses of vocal ad-libs the trio adapt from aboriginal chants, Young Fathers create something that feels transcendent, while simultaneously so deeply human.

This is freedom music. This is music that implicitly understands the griefs and trials, the “hell on earth” we’re faced with daily, the reality that we all “go in the dirt,” as they sing on “Geronimo.” And yet all the heaviness in the world can’t shake this celebration, one that defiantly growls “don’t forget I’m not susceptible to your nonsense” on “I Saw” and then defies language altogether on the soul-stirring “Ululation.” We’ve had plenty of music in recent years that reckons with global and personal heaviness and offers comfort or therapeutic release or reassurance. On Heavy Heavy, Young Fathers render it all powerless, the darkness just a blank canvas on which every burst of light and hope becomes all the more brilliant. (www.young-fathers.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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