Released - August 2013
Label - Independent
'While You Were Sleeping...' presents a retrospective account of a project that has had time to marinate. This week sees us returning to a pinnacle release from 2013 - The Hics' Tangle EP
2013 saw the release of ‘Tangle’ EP - the only long-form work from London electronic group The Hics, and in truth, it's all they might ever need to be memorialized in contemporary music. This forward-thinking group set the baseline for digitally-kissed R&B that would later be capitalized upon by some of the biggest stars of that decade. While their relationship with music has been ephemeral, the quality of their mythically rare work continues to stand the test of time.
The Hics are a deeply absorbing band to listen to as their body of work is so limited, with ‘Tangle’ comprising just four tracks resulting in just a little over 18 minutes of music. The upside to this is that you will form a deep relationship with every one of these tracks and are forced to understand intimately The Hics' mindset resulting in an extremely rewarding listening experience.
Tangle's most immediate quality is the smooth, delicately woven production of Sam Paul Evan and the vulnerable yet detached vocal of Rox Barker. Bassist Matt Knox's work is liquidated, whilst remaining intensely precise and present. At his best, he allows songs like EP highlight ‘Cold Air’ to feel untouchably regal, resulting in a perfect placement on Gilles Peterson Worldwide FM in Grand Theft Auto V.
Jacob Welsh's drum work, whilst understated, proves flawless in establishing Tangle’s cool aquatic atmosphere. His soft snare clicks on EP finale ‘Lines’ and are immersed in a dark reverb that causes them to ring out like an axe chipping at cavern walls, whilst acid-washed synth tones canvas the borders of the mix like painted gray clouds. Quiet saxophone work from the late David Turay decidedly follows the vocal melody, never overshadowing yet proving an essential supporting cast member.
You may well approach ‘Tangle’ with tepid expectation, but the EP is unassumingly addictive due to its startling versatility. Working as both mood music and a deep listening experience, on ‘Tangle’ The Hics tapped into one of the most effective musical devices at their disposal: repetition. Each song breaches four minutes or is just behind that mark, and while structurally the tracks don't move too far from home base, they're hazy and reassuring enough for you to fall helplessly into the project's arms.
‘Russian Dolls’ the EP's most morphine-infused cut, plays out in mid-tempo rumination; a supercut of physical touch and minds connected via the heart's satellite, making it the most bedroom-primed song of the four. The heavenly title track waxes and wanes gracefully, drawing from itself through delayed guitars provided by Geordan Reid-Campbell and flickering percussive snaps that keep the song propelled yet delightfully wandering. Such a short work requires being lopped for true analysis, and within an hour or so I was spiraling downwards towards an oil-spill of reflection amidst one of the most serene experiences I’ve experienced in a long time.
It's a bit of a shame, then, that The Hics have released only a few singles here and there post 'Tangle'; never a long-form follow up to their highly exciting EP at the time. As purveyors of the ineffable, it is evident that The Hics produced a marvelously efficient EP that pre-empted the sensual, atmospheric digi-R&B that would later become a staple of late-2010's alternative music. At the time it was hard to tell how influential The Hics were on the independent music scene but they were stunningly accurate in predicting where it was headed. Barring all the hypotheticals, ‘Tangle’ is still unlike little else available in its wheelhouse. No other artists seem to have picked up on the frequencies that The Hics did, even if they were on similar channels. In terms of quality over quantity, The Hics know exactly which one was most important.