If 2021 were a Guillermo del Toro movie, HEELE’s new EP, Oceata, would form part of the soundtrack. This four-song record roams a lush electronic landscape of connection, disaffection, and compromise. where imagery flickers with shifting shades of meaning. It’s a milieu of sideways glances, black screens, and digging deep in pursuit of a lasting sense of self. Listening, the mood for me is cyberpunk, in its grappling for a sense of humanity in a world of technology and artificiality.
Let’s go track-by-track. The usual Spotify embed is at the bottom, or you can show excellent judgment by buying on Bandcamp.
A New Friend
In the context of a full EP, the opening line–“where to begin? sideways glances as they walk away”–gains fresh impact. The EP as a whole often seems held in tension between the urge to disconnect and the desire to be understood. If “nothing really matters,” is this nihilism or radical freedom?
The one thing I’m sure of is that the production on the chorus feels like falling down the rabbit hole. Also, “the saviors and prophets were all absurdists” is one of those lines that gets more interesting, the more you think about it.
The pandemic-survival song gives a danceable yet grim stroll through a world of screens and exhortations. As I wrote at the time of the single, what grabs me and punches me in the gut with the verses is the swift, unpredictable switches between light and dark: memories point in odd directions, blooming is in a forgotten garden, and “a spoonful of medicine helps the sugar come out.”
Tangent No. 2
Here, the record takes sudden turn into a sound like Spanish guitar, yet inorganic in feel. It’s an uncanny valley of sound, make literally uncanny by the creepy repetition of the key riff.
Ignorance Is Bliss
The contrast between verse and chorus delights me. The verse is delivered with robotic, almost chanted, calm against the beat of sheer panic. Then the chorus erupts into an anthemic, quasi-organic sound that puts a smile on my face even though a smile is inappropriate to the content. I feel played, in an artistically satisfying way: there’s something to rethink about the urge to nostalgia.
For me, this song hits my “politics” button: the gaffes, the unmandated arrogance, the feeling of being acted upon, plus my vague, probably wrong, sense that institutions used to work better. That’s far from the only way to see it; tightly controlled angry fear has a lot of applicability in 2021. Struggling with the hope that, despite a great deal of disappointment, things are somehow better–that’s also very 2021.
Here, we pause to quote a favorite segment, because it’s a mood.
It feels like everything is changing me
But I can’t seem to change anything
I guess it’s just poetic futility
Given the EP’s tension between organic and artifice, the final resolution of song and record is thought-provoking.