Karina Golisova

From the damp, cold streets of Bratislava comes an album that proves that art doesn’t necessarily need to imitate reality to become a part of its fabric.

52 Hertz Whale is a Slovakian quintet who are on their third studio affair, after an EP in 2015 and a full-length album in 2017. Five years is a long wait, but the band has been keeping themselves busy touring Europe and headlining prestigious shows in their homeland and in the neighboring countries, steadily growing their crowd of adoring fans of underground music. The result we have on our hands today is a direct result of years of self-discovery. A honing of their expressive tools, a gained confidence in the dry, manic singing, and an increasing experience in their trademark songwriting, which smoothly ramps up from delicate, simple, or minimal introductions, to full-blown catharsis near the end, a dramatic arc that displays the band as a group of people in stunning command over their craft.

Present Sense Impression is a relatively short collection of 7 songs, running just short of 30 minutes in length. What it lacks in quantity is more than made up for in terms of quality. The songs are without exception solidly written, with a lot of nuance and intention. The sound is organic and unfiltered, the performances are powerful, and the sound is chock-full of character and color.

The boys from Bratislava open with Dmytro. A steady rhythm section leads the way with a spaced-out part that’s highlighted by a percussive click and a syncopated bassline that’s intricate and worth paying attention to. The grand composition is highlighted and given context through a persistent tremolo effect and clean production. The guitars introduced in the final crescendo are ferocious, and the thick curtain of roomy reverb sets a vibe that will last until the last bars of the record. Phil starts with a simple, solid beat, and a riff of alarming, ringing keys, along with characterful singing. The singing is somewhat buried in the mix, relegating it to a supporting role and making any focus on the lyrics a challenging task. The instrumentation and the arrangements stand on their own, nonetheless. The drums evolve into a tom-heavy driving part as the vocals become charismatic, feral wails and chants. Argentina puts another stiff drum part in the forefront, with lush pads, clean background guitars, and a deep bass line. The singing continues being confident, nasal, and wailing. The sustained vocal lines are packed with melancholy and emotion. A lengthy instrumental section pays way to a final sizzling verse, before the song explodes in a crescendo that’s rich and dense, with a beautiful piano melody, heavy-handed drums, and an intricate, melodic bassline.

Bouyant comes next. A song that has some of the most potent compositions and performances. Draped in melancholia, the singing featured here is some of the most powerful. Organic and unaltered, the singing is extremely emotional and was doubtlessly challenging to perform. Sadly the instrumental parts here end up feeling a bit colorless, as the focus has all seemingly went to the emotions of the singing and the composition itself. Aberration is an abrasive cut that starts with a foreboding fire alarm and a looming, deep bassline. Layers of corroded sounds start piling, and with the harsh, nasal singing, the song ends up being hard to sit through. Rather experimental and unsettling soundscapes, with a very bright chorus that struggles to show its light under the oppressive sound. Lighthouse starts with the catchiest bass and drums groove on the record. Again, the nasal singing voice on the catchy, syncopated verses grow to become manic screams on the choruses that reminded me of Black Francis’s crazed singing. The contrast the band is able to pull within a single bar, between the unforgiving choruses and the dancy verses, is nothing short of astonishing. The closing Meda is an ambient, clean guitar lullaby that’s a gorgeous relief after such a densely packed album. Floating, and breezy, the buried distorted feedbacks called to mind the crashing waves on a shore.

52 Hertz Whale’s Present Simple Impression is an artistically rich foray that’s dense with texture, sonic architecture, and lyrical intention, with professional, intricate, and heartfelt performances. The singing and lyricism manage to stand on very remarkable grounds. A very memorable and easy-to-recommend listen.