Slow down. Take a deep breath. That's what Brooklyn-based band Bear In Heaven seem to be saying with its latest project.
Slowing music down isn't exactly new this year. A version of Justin Bieber's song "U Smile" that's more 800% longer than the original emerged online and was covered by both All Songs Considered and All Things Considered. The process of drawing out the length of the song managed to turn the sugary pop star into, as Stephen Thompson put it at the time, a "celestial choirboy."
Bear In Heaven is taking things up a notch. In a humorous approach to the traditional PR stunt surrounding an album release, Bear In Heaven is streaming its second album, I Love You, It's Cool, on its website, but stretching the music out so much — the version on the website is 400,000% longer — that it will play only one complete time between now and its official release on April 3.
That means you could play the album through 4,000 times back to back at its normal speed in the time it'll take the band's website to make it through I Love You, It's Cool just once.
The result is drone magnified to the extreme. Every single second of music on the album will last over an hour when played on the website. Although technically what you'll hear any time you tune in is a single, drawn-out note, minuscule details, textures and patterns emerge. It's an ingenious take on the concept of music as art and a fascinating look into the intricacies of music at the most microscopic scale, not to mention a pretty funny way to promote a new album.
We asked Bear In Heaven a few questions about the project. The band responded collaboratively:
NPR: What you mean when you say you're slowing the album down by "nearly 400,000%?"
BIH: Well, we've done just that. We literally took our 44 minute long record and stretched it to last over 2700 hours. After doing some math, that's the exact time it'll take to stream the record from announcement day to the release date. The result is quite beautiful and terrifying. The potential to lull you to sleep while feeding your nightmares is right there, streaming from your browser window. Drum rolls last for days, catchy bass lines are transformed into a low rumble, and vocals are washed away into shimmering overtones. We're surprised and elated with how it's turned out.
NPR: How did this project come about? What were you thinking when you decided to do this?
BIH: Our band came together around shared musical tastes, and drone music was very near the top of that list. We've all spent hours at La Monte Young's Dream House, witnessed Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch, and played shows with Tony Conrad. It's part of us. This has been part of the Bear In Heaven conversation for years, how to balance and integrate our love for the outsider music into a pop context, and this idea rose to the top very quickly. From day one of writing the new record, we discussed recording a companion piece. Something we could have fun with and almost treat it as a Side A of the record. Like a meditative palette cleanser where we could exercise our ambient leanings. That never happened unfortunately, but this slowed down record really achieves everything we wanted out of that notion.
NPR: Is there something you're trying to say by streaming your album in this way?
BIH: Absolutely. It's a lesson in patience, as much for us as for our audience and critics. As a working band in a competitive world, you're asked at every step of the way for content. More content. Content to drive press, content to appear current, content to tweet about, teaser videos, mailing list widgets, giveaways ... it's become less about great records and more about great marketing strategies. So the slowed down album works in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it's musical. It's something you can listen to, enjoy, contemplate or complain about. But at the same time, it's a challenge and a tongue in cheek statement. You want content? Sure, here's our entire album 4 months in advance, oh, but it's slowed down 400,000%. We hope that it makes even the smallest splash in the music world and let's bands and critics alike realize, you don't have to leak 4 singles off their record before it's even out. Concept over content ... Or conceptual content, you get the idea.
NPR: What are some of the things you like about streaming your album this way?
BIH: We like the way it sounds, for one. It's quite hypnotic. We also like that we're experiencing it along side the audience. We haven't heard the whole thing obviously, so every hour is a surprise to us. I think that may be the best part. The shared experience/experiment.