With the promotion of their upcoming album I Love You, It’s Cool, Brooklyn’s Bear In Heaven prove that the difference between noise and music is quite literally a matter of time. Leading up to its release, the band is streaming the album on their website at a speed 400,000 percent slower than originally recorded. What was once an hour of unapologetically catchy dance rock is reduced to epic drones, each second lasting over an hour.
Though their own sound has wide appeal, the members of Bear In Heaven are no strangers to the world of experimental music that pop radio audiences would likely find unlistenable. Early in his career, founder and front man Jon Philpot was one half of the experimental group Presocratics, and has a professed love for sound beyond the constraints of traditional music. His current project is a far cry from his origins. Bear In Heaven’s music is accessible, but their tight production and lack of adherence to the current trends has earned them praise as a genre-less wonder. The slowed down I Love You, It’s Cool experiment is a shout back to their roots.
It’s a slightly more accessible use of the technique employed by John Cage on his piece “As Slow As Possible,” the slowed down performance of a song that began in 2000 and will come to an end in 2640. Rather than lasting over an hour, each chord runs for over two years. If you’re the practical type, I Love You, It’s Cool is probably a bit more your speed. The stream will end on April 3rd with the release of the album.
If you’d like to save several days, we’ve got an advance track from I Love You, It’s Cool, as well as an exclusive Lovelock remix. We also caught up with Jon Philpot to find out what inspired their experiment and how to drop BPMs to depths previously unknown.
The Creators Project: Standard pitch controls can handle plus or minus ten percent. What exactly did you use to drop the speed 400,000 percent? Is the actual pitch of each sound preserved?
Jon Philpot: The pitch of each song is maintained. If it was pitched down it would sound like a low rumble and less like magic church choir. There’s a rumor floating around that we played the slow stream live, recorded it and then uploaded it on a weekly basis. There’s also a rumor that we used Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch.
Since the album is being played like this for the first time, the band has never heard this version of the record in its entirety. How much of the slowed down album have you listened to so far? What do you hear in it?
We listen to it on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I’m listening to our song “Cool Light” right now. It’s a warm wash of sound. At 10 AM the vocals we’re in the front, at 11 AM they faded away as the bass took over. The whole thing is as much of a surprise to us as it is to everyone else. There was no time to preview it so we just made it and let it run. It is a living piece of art that will die on April 3, 2012—the day our record comes out.
Are any of your fans who were drawn in by the pop sound bewildered by this experiment? How’s the overall fan response?
So far the response has been great. Bear in Heaven fans can handle our artistic leanings. I read one thing on Twitter where a person asked if we were printing the drone on vinyl. He wanted to know so he could buy a new shelf.
By any standards, this is a pretty unconventional way to unveil an album. Is there a meaning behind it?
First, it’s a lighthearted reaction to promotional stunts and teasers that every band has to do before their record comes out. If you don’t build hype, you’ll never tour and you’ll hardly sell records. Bands with good hype often overshadow bands with good music. Second, we wanted to make a drone based companion piece that could go along with our record. Consider it an after dinner drink. Just chill out and let it happen. There’s something comforting about it humming away in the background of our crazy world. It’s always there, ever changing, offering something new as the days go by. Even if you don’t have time for it.
Bear In Heaven’s music is lauded for its catchiness, accessibility and good execution of pop standards, and yet the idea behind this promo is seriously avant-garde. What are your roots in experimental music?
It all goes back to the experimental record label Table of the Elements. TOTE was an Atlanta based record label that released a record for every element in the table of the elements. Most of the music was based on minimalism, micro-tonal music or really anything that broke the barriers of our beloved 12-tone scale. I was an intern at the label and subsequently joined one of their bands, Presocratics. Need Windham, the band’s founding member, described us as agit-prop electroacoustic music for the working class. This was, in fact, the first real band I was ever a part of. It kinda of warped my perspective about what music can or should be. Joe and Adam were members of a band with TOTE artist, Rhys Chatham. Through Rhys, Adam and I played in his guitar orchestras and a few live performances of his song, Guitar Trio. Adam has a photo of him playing Guitar Trio with most of Sonic Youth. It’s kinda incredible.
Who are some of the experimental artists you dig? A few favorite pieces? Anything that inspired the slow-down?
The first and most important inspiration for this is “9 Beet Stretch” by Leif Inge. He stretched Beethoven’s 9th so that it lasts 24 hours. It is a truly amazing piece of music. Next is the ever popular Justin Bieber stretch. We wore this out on tour. Other favorites that are totally worth checking out:
Tony Conrad and Faust- Outside the Dream Syndicate
Charlemagne Palestine- Strumming Music
Steve Reich- Four Organs / Phase Patterns
Jon Gibson- Two Solo Pieces
Jim O’Rourke- Happy Days