REVIEW: Hermione and the House Elves

…so, I guess that in the end, it’s only massively spoilerish to people who have read the book, and thus, it isn’t a spoiler, and that trailer alone was filled with more epicness, action, and tension than most movies have in their entire runtime, and I’m going to be really disappointed if that mumbo jumbo epic chanting doesn’t make it into the movie and GODS DID THAT OPALEYE LOOK FANTASTIC and…

Oh.  I didn’t see you there.  Ahem.  Excuse me.

So, welcome to the second of today’s two posts (check out the first one here, if you’re really that lazy to navigate a fucking wordpress site), today I will be reviewing the very young and new band, Hermione and the House Elves – this band is so new that it doesn’t even have a MySpace – they, well, she, uses MyLeaky, the social networking offshoot of The Leaky Cauldron, which is a medium I failed to discuss in my Extended Thoughts on MySpace.

Very quickly, as far as music goes, it’s practically as functional as MySpace is these days, albeit with half the song slots, and no fancy options like lyrics, artwork, and shuffle play.  It’s also built into a fairly robust social networking system, with some fairly powerful, if not exactly concise or consolidated options for putting up tour dates and shows and such.  Now, where it breaks down is that you don’t have options to make a blog or a bulletin or whatever, so you have to rely on people visiting your profile, or your fan group, or you spamming everyone in your contact list.  Also, I’ve never quite understood why regular profiles have cool options like patronus type and stuff like that and band profiles don’t, even though there are plenty of bands that are single people, and not everyone wants to create a band profile and a “real” profile.  Also, it’s only useful to wizard rock bands in that even if 100% of the userbase of MyLeaky stalkishly follows their profiles and updates, that’s only approximately 45% of the Harry Potter community, with the other 45% being MuggleNet fans, and the other 10% not giving a damn (and these are numbers that I’ll freely admit to having made up off the top of my head).  Still, for bands that choose to get involved, MyLeaky works well as a more freeform version of a forum, and can be a good first start for a band, as demonstrated by today’s band – Hermione and the House Elves.

OH SNAP! EPIC TRANSITION OUT OF NEEDLESSLY LENGTHY TANGENT!

So, let’s just get straight to the review, shall we?

Hermione and the House Elves is the brainchild of Freya (no, not the Wizrocklopedia one), and is a self-proclaimed “classical wrock band”.  You may wonder at first what that means, but it’s evident upon just a precursory listen – this is music in a style that was cutting edge and hip two hundred years ago.  Now, it’s not classical music in the sense of Vivaldi or Tchaikovsky, this is music that revolves entirely around the voice.  Now, I know that I have a bit of a problem in that I review every single song on the album, but seeing as how I was given only three songs to review, I think it’s justified in this case.

First up, “Gone Is My Hope” – a song that would not sound out of place during a choir performance at a church.  This is a purely acappela song, and it has quickly become one of my favorite accapella songs in wizard rock (though I still like The Parselmouths‘ “Oh Dumbledore” better).  Part of this is because there are two basic types of accapella songs – the first is this style, in which there is absolutely no instrumentation, just the human voice carrying a melody alone in an empty void, which make the times when this tack is successful all the sweeter.  The other is the type favored by The Moaning Myrtles in their Bathroom Acoustics EP, and by people on YouTube, where there is still full instrumentation, just the instruments are also being done by human voices.  I prefer the former – while the latter is technically impressive, it comes off as more “gimmicky” to me, and being used more than a couple times on an album seems wholly unnecessary when you could have a better effect with, you know, actual instruments.

However, I eat up the lone melody stuff for breakfast – unfortunately, IT’S FUCKING HARD TO DO. To do well, at least, but Freya has got one heck of an amazing voice.  Now, even though this is a new wrock band, the incredible voice work shown means that I’m going to be incredibly hard-assed and nitpicky in this assessment, and… well, I actually have nothing bad to say about this song, music-wise.  I mean, there are a couple sharp notes, but I’m pretty sure that’s a result of the recording situation rather than a reflection on the singer’s actual voice.  Now, this song is divided into two sections – the first contains some multi-tracking, which allows for the melody to have a bit more substance, but the second half has lyrics you can easily understand, at the cost of a less interesting listening experience.  That is, until the end of the song where Freya’s voice goes so ridiculously high in range (while still staying perfectly in tune, and without any autotune or anything like that), and all you can hear are the beautiful sounds with no discernible words, turning the voice into more of an instrument.

That said, the lyrics are no great shakes, just a simple tale about Hermione being disappointed with Ron leaving the trio during DH.  This subject matter has been covered before many times, and in much better ways, but again, the lyrics are not the focus of this listening experience, the voicework is.

“Harry’s Lullaby” is the next song, and it’s a step down, for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it’s not accapella, but it should have been, because the highly rudimentary guitar work serves only to bring the final product down.  Also, Freya’s voice is such a stand-alone talent that there really is no need for the GarageBand/Audacity filter put on the song to give it a slight ethereal sound – at least, not while your recording equipment is subpar, and the filter just amplifies those things.  Also, the entire song sounds like it’s being sung at you from across the room, at the bottom of a well, that has for some reason filled with pillows.  This combined with Freya’s voicework that swoops and climbs with abondon, and you can barely understand a single word being sung.  Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but 1) You should have a least part of the song understandable, and 2) I really feel that if it wasn’t for the filter, you could understand the song, and that makes it seem all the worse, when you know this confusion could have been easily avoided.

“Oh, You’re Gone” has more sophisticated ( though still pretty simplistic) guitar work, and the lyrics aren’t too hard to understand, and the voicework is as incredible as ever.  However, the lyrics aren’t particularly engaging, and barely ever rhyme, and while I can understand the lyrics, I really can’t be damned to follow them.  Instead, I just ride the waves of the melody, spiraling in and out and corkscrewing around.

So, it’s time for final thoughts.  You may have noticed that this was a shorter review, even with all the pointless digressions, but I didn’t have a ton to work with, and my thoughts on all three songs weren’t that different.  So, here’s what I think about Hermione and the House Elves – I think that Freya is the most gifted young vocalist to hit the wizard rock scene in a while, and I would not be surprised if I started to see her collabing with other wrock bands.  In fact, I would heartily encourage this course of action – both to wizard rock bands that feel like they could use some heavyweight chomps in the vocal department, and the Freya – find some fellow wrockers you like and you think you could work with, hit them up and ask if they want to collab!  It’s just a hunch, but I think the occurrence of people turning down the chance the collab with someone is a great rarity in this community.

Also, while I did diss on the song writing and guitar playing, I did so not so much because they weren’t up to par (though they weren’t), but even more so because I don’t feel they were necessary.  What I think would be a really cool direction for HatHE would be for Freya to ditch the guitar and lyrics, and become an instrumental band, but one in which the only instrument is your voice!  Wizard rock desperately needs more instrumental bands, and I think having a lyric-free vocal-only band would be a great and unique addition to our spectrum.  I mean, given that the incredible range of the vocals makes the lyrics indiscernible, you’re practically halfway there already!  But hey, it’s just a thought.

Lastly, if you want to go anywhere with this wizard rock thing, I would seriously recommend finding someone to increase your production quality.  An easy way to go a long way towards solving this would be just fiddling around with the settings for your microphone, and whatever program you use.  You may be surprised to know that many programs have a magical “Make It Sound Better” button, often labeled “Noise Cancellation” or the like, that is for some reason not automatically turned on.

So, now for the all-important (except not really) grade.  Now, this is a bit ironic given the topic of today’s earlier post, but I can’t really give this band a grade, because I feel I can only give grades to albums, and three songs does not an album make, nor is it intended to (scuttlebutt is that an EP will be released sometime in August).  So, I can only pass judgment by declaring whether I approve or disapprove of a band.  And in the matter of the wizard rock band Hermione and the House Elves, I can only say that…

See y’all on Wednesday.  Wrock Snob out.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. PK9
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 11:34:24

    Pass/Fail? Really? After reading that entire post to see your shiny new grading system?

    But still, thanks for introducing me to a new band! I agree, Freya’s voice is amazing.

    Out of curiosity, where did you listen to “Oh You’re Gone”? The 3rd song on her myleaky is a cover of a muggle song called “Sento nel Core”.

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Jun 29, 2010 @ 22:49:21

      Yeah, it was a more than a bit ironic to do that, but for a very new band with only three songs up, it just didn’t feel right to do a grade. However, I may do a review of the EP she’s planning to release in August, and then I’ll do actual grades. I just felt that I should use a different system of reviewing very new bands, since I’m more reviewing potential than anything else.

      Reply

  2. Jade
    Jul 23, 2010 @ 20:51:14

    Okay, until now I thought I wouldn’t comment on this but this came into my mind a moment ago so here goes.

    I don’t understand your view of acappella music. You wrote:
    ” — there are two basic types of accapella songs – the first is this style, in which there is absolutely no instrumentation, just the human voice carrying a melody alone in an empty void, which make the times when this tack is successful all the sweeter. The other is the type favored by The Moaning Myrtles in their Bathroom Acoustics EP, and by people on YouTube, where there is still full instrumentation, just the instruments are also being done by human voices. I prefer the former – while the latter is technically impressive, it comes off as more “gimmicky” to me, and being used more than a couple times on an album seems wholly unnecessary when you could have a better effect with, you know, actual instruments.”

    Firstly, I want to say I’m no expert in music or definitions and characteristics of acappella music. These are just my own personal opinions and observations, from the acappella music I’ve heard, and also what I’ve made myself.

    Four types of acappella come into my mind right now, and two of them are what you said: one voice carrying the melody, or bunch of voices doing the melody & “instrumentation”. I’d consider a third type to be where bunch of voices sing like a choir, following mostly the same rhythm but harmonizing the lead melody. Fourth type would be a song with no main melody, but only different kind of stems between which the lead position changes.

    My songs pretty much fall into the second category: melody + “instrumentation”. You wrote that you prefer the lone melody stuff over it, and I’m not arguing that because it’s your opinion. It’s a fact that people like different things 🙂 What I’m questioning is the way you seem to consider the other voices than the lead melody to be just imitation of instruments, and that the main goal of these vocals is to try to sound like real instruments as much as possible, and that reaching this goal is the way to succeed.

    Also, your opinion that this type of acappella “being used more than a couple times on an album seems wholly unnecessary” suggests to me that you consider real instruments+vocals the norm, and that acappella is something that is used when… I’m not exactly sure when you think it should be used. To make an impression by doing something different than the norm? Or when you are lacking real instruments?

    Is this what you meant? I might have misunderstood you for some reason. I’m not familiar with everything on “Bathroom Acoustics” so maybe with all of this you were just referring to that EP and comparing it to the other releases of The Moaning Myrtles, so you just said all this from that perspective, and didn’t mean that those views are your general views of acappella.

    Here are some of my views on acappella:

    I don’t listen and make acappella music because I lack instruments (though yes, I often would like to have both acappella and nonacappella version of my songs, only because I love creativity and hearing different versions of the same thing). And I’m not trying to sound like real instruments when I’m making the rhythms and beats etc. I also use other words as stems than the usual “dada/dudu”s or “haa/huu”s. In many songs I’m intentionally trying to make these stems sound funny, and in that case they sound so far from any real instruments. I also improvise a lot, and twist and change the quality of the sounds, which creates different kinds of effects. I feel that I can do so much more with my voice than I could do with instruments. Of course, there are things you can’t do with your voice which you can do with real instruments only. My opinion is that even if voicework and instrumental work have different things to offer musically, they should be treated with equal respect, and not automatically assume that either one of them is only trying to imitate the other.

    I think history is often overappreciated in determining aesthetics and values (you know, some direct “what was in the beginning, or has been a long time, and gained popularity, thus has become mainstream, just has to be good” thinking). So this next philosophical thoughtline is not to be “proof” of what’s good/the best/worth something/whateva.

    How did music come into existence? It must have been sounds in the nature, and sounds humans made with their voices and instruments. Guitars, basses, drum sets in the form they are today have been existence for only a short period of time. Before them were simpler instruments with which people made music. So what is music really? Noises in lines and layers. Those lines are the rhythm, layers are the
    tones. You can make both with voice and instruments, and I bet they did.
    And yes, I know that aesthetics of today are so far from those in the distant past but my point is that music is rhythms+tones, and instruments and vocals are both just tools to realize them.

    Anyhoo, could you clarify your views on this acappella issue. I might have just majorly misunderstood.

    Reply

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