High Places take listeners "from stardust to sentience" | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

High Places take listeners "from stardust to sentience"

High Places creates the kind of music some of us hear in our heads at the point where sleep meets consciousness. It could be the last thing heard as the body heads towards REM (the state, not the band), or that sound the brain plays right as the alarm clock goes off.

Either way, it's easy to imagine Mary Pearson at the Gate of Sleep, singing in a gauzy fog, her lyrics understood only with careful effort. Behind her, Rob Barber creates music from sampled beats, keyboards, guitars, banjo and household objects. So that could be a tabla playing the beat in "The Storm," which opens their self-titled album on Thrill Jockey, or it might be a heavily treated cooking pot -- and there lies the appeal.

High Places often sounds like the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser singing for an Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack (such as Twin Peaks). Some songs are spare: little more than beats and some stray bass notes underneath Pearson's coo. Others are more elaborate, like the shimmering "From Stardust to Sentience," with its wall of synths and a dizzying ping-pong effect between the speakers. And they never sound mechanical or preprogrammed.

Pearson and Barber met while she was completing a degree in bassoon performance and he was teaching visual art. In 2006, they began collaborating in Brooklyn under the moniker High Places, utilizing a method they compare to the game Exquisite Corpse, where ideas are exchanged without knowing how they will sound until the end. After a series of singles, which were compiled on a disc earlier this year, their debut effort comes out just as their tour begins.


High Places with Stars Like Fleas and Discuss. 9 p.m. Tue., Sept. 16. Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $8. 412-621-4900

click to enlarge Up a tree: High Places
Up a tree: High Places

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