Bear in Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth

January 01, 1970



Jon Philpot’s second full length as Bear in Heaven is an
inchoate monster of an album, weighted with ritual percussive clangor and slow
blossoming modal melodies. It’s also a good deal more pop than you might
expect, given Philpot’s current association with experimental Hometapes and
his history (via previous band Presocratics) with avant garde Table of Elements.
Not that he’s headed for the Top 40 anytime soon — elements of chaos and
experiment lurk in nearly every cut of Beast
Rest Forth Mouth
. Still, they are unexpectedly leavened by dance-floor
jitters of synthesizer, buoyant pop hooks and the slush of disco cymbals. You
can hear Yes and Tears for Fears, Human League and Soft Cell side by side in
these compositions, a weird, effortful, compelling mix of prog, new wave, rock,
pop and even blue-eyed soul.


“Beast in Peace” starts things off with a pulverizing
four-on-the-floor beat, drums, guitars, bass and keyboards all struck in
staccato lock-step. Only little flicks of hand drums are allowed to wander off
the beat, which is otherwise monolithic. Against this stirring, almost
militarily precise framework, Philpot’s vocals drift and twine like smoke, half
obscured by percussion, in a high, almost-falsetto that sounds a bit like Bob
Mould in Sugar. The verse is subtle, but the chorus is enormous, anthemic and
encased in chilled, echoey glamour.  It’s
pitched halfway between melodic rock and new wave, evoking Parts & Labor as
much as Tears for Fears. The next cut, “Wholehearted Mess” digs deeper into the
dance floor aesthetic, its beat reinforced by skittery, funk-bleating bursts of
synthesizer and disco 16th notes on the high hat.  “Lovesick Teenagers” is similarly strobe-lit,
a pulse of Human League-ish synthesizers and syncopated cymbal slaps giving
spine and rhythm to slow melodies. It’s maybe worth mentioning that Joe
Stickney, who also drums for Panther, is the one behind the kit, working the
fine line between funky hedonics and primordial heft. (Adam Wills and Sadek Bazaara switch off on guitar and bass, while Philpot sings and plays guitar and


 “Drug a Wheel”, near
the end, is less pop than some of the other songs, its tenor ominous, glossy
and chilled, an industrial clank and groan in its giant mechanical rhythms. Philpot
sings as if from the back of a warehouse, his voice slipping in and out of
ambient noises, sometimes deadpan but often with a bit of soul slipped into his
syncopated cadences.   It’s a serious
song, a big song, its delicate melody blown into vast dramatic proportions, but
not without a sense of play.  If you like
any of the current crop of synth experimenters – Cold Cave
comes to mind – Bear in Heaven is worth checking out.


Standout Tracks: “Beast in Peace,”  “Drug a Wheel” JENNIFER KELLY









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