Review – “Bitter Herb” – Hansmole

reviewed by Laura Stanley

I feel like I’m watching an obscure, darkly humorous 80’s cartoon as I listen to Hansmole’s (Hannah Van Adrichem) new record Bitter Herb. Except the tv’s colour is off so the hues are wonky and are all washed in pink. It’s psychedelic and mournful and fun.

Bitter Herb 
falls somewhere in the electronic-pop universe as crunchy beats pound and tick, sometimes loudly and at other times masked by guitars and reverb. Tracks 7 through 9 capture Bitter Herb‘s flexibility. The wonderful “Day Shapes” (track 7) is a folk-pop track that’s an upbeat confident stroll around the block while the latter two are crowded with electronics.

“As Glean As,” is a densely layered track, “it’s endless,” to borrow Van Adrichem’s words. It begins as a shadowy electro-pop tune with Van Adrichem’s voice thickly shrouded with reverb and then a little over the half-way mark, the track buckles under harsh cacophony before catching a ride on teardrop synth notes and falling easily to the ground. “Fruit/Rind” is two tracks in one: the first half has a steady and sticky beat while the second half has a rounder, softer synth line floating below sizzling (think the painful sensation of citrus seeping into a cut) beats.

Lyrically, Bitter Herb is full of tracks in which the senses are stimulated or there is a longing for stimuli.  On standout opener, the smell of Van Adrichem’s fantasized lavender is tragically nowhere to be found in real life, the “Blacker Juice” tastes bitter and sweet, the fragrant “Pink Breeze” of spring caters to the stinging flesh of a sunburn, and the titular bitter herb is tasted while “Gourmet Bathing.”  We are offered a brief explanation of Van Adrichem meditations on the senses in “A Short Story.” In the one minute long track, Van Adrichem wonders aloud, “what if the colours before me are different than those that you see?” before telling off any eye-rollers, “shut the fuck up, we have all smoked weed.”

Bitter Herb goes down smoothly.

Top Tracks: “Sad Song”; “Day Shapes”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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