"Sinking Stones" by HEK

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"Sinking Stones" by HEK

Review

As you know, with my finite resources (especially time), I have to handle my caseload for "Hot Music Live" by prioritising those artists whose work excites & uplifts me: it makes for pretty much consistently positive articles, avoids struggles to find pluses in work I can't locate them in easily and to some extent provides me with a quantity I can handle generally.

The rod I make for my own back with this strategy is that with going for the best, I can experience difficulties choosing adequate words to reflect both the quality of the music & the profundity of my own emotional response to it.

I persist though because I feel so strongly that their talent needs drawing to people's attention & because there is a remarkable correlation between the best music & the amiability of the people who made it.

You know by now the artists whose successive releases are knocking my proverbial socks off every time: how on earth do I raise the bar on my writing each review to try to keep up with how they are doing that with the music?

On this occasion, the band in question is HEK and once again they've produced a single, "Sinking Stones", which comes out on April 20th which is of such high calibre that I think it stands up against anything I hear in this style nationally or beyond, let alone locally. Britain needs to hear & embrace HEK in 2024.

Written by rhythm guitarist/vocalist Reiss Pinder, you must know who else contributes to this magnificent sound by now, but they really deserve a mention each time: they are bassist Liv Gardner, keyboard/synthesizer player Lucy Gardner, lead guitarist Josh Sellis and drummer/percussionist Sean Statham.

Individually, each is a very talented player, yet together they've found common ground and contributed to a highly distinctive sound which is one of the great strengths of HEK and I'm not sure that can be said of too many bands. This will take them far by itself. Hopefully Jon Webb of The Moonbase can accompany them on this journey as he's found a way of presenting this uniqueness in a pristine form, yet one in which each element is clearly discernible.

The other element is that Reiss is such a good writer: one of those poetic lyricists (and I'm so glad his idea of poetic writing doesn't include the juvenile & irritating sacrificing of meaning to ensuring each pair of lines rhymes). It takes quite a few listens to grasp what many of his images might mean (and challenges like that pull you into the song and continue to reward you), though as with all good poetry, the general overall sense comes across right away.

Like a lot of his songs, it certainly sounds at least partially autobiographical and he often seems to heading down roads full of regrets and hurts. In this one, he may well be the protagonist, but there is an anonymous female character plus a mysterious "Joe". Who are these people? I'm not sure that I want a definitive answer: enigmas elevate songs for me & enable me to interpret them according to my own imagination. I think that option of personal applicability is a hallmark of the best songwriting: what emotional engagement is possible where the lyrics allow of only one interpretation?

The words of "Sinking Stones" contain many evocative images and they alone provide plenty of succulent listening moments. What do they add up to though? Is Reiss being pessimistic or fatalistic? Or is he just trying to process his experiences & feelings in order to survive? I'm not sure I know & hope you'll enjoy working that out. If this is literally stuff he's had to deal with, I ca only hope things are better for him now.

Round all this, the band wraps a web of that highly characteristic sound I mentioned: in this  case it serves partly as a counterpoint to the words (its far more upbeat & you'll know from plenty of previous articles how much I like it when words & music seem to be pulling in different directions, setting up yet more audience-friendly tensions) and partly to ratchet up the already high emotional quota. In which it's wholly successful: in fact at times it sounds like the instrumentalists are drawing more and more angst out of Reiss' vocals. Consequently he ends up in that weird state where he sounds almost out of control but you know he's not.

While this is going on, you suddenly start hearing other things going on at the same time & you need to peer aurally round the vocals on repeated plays to appreciate them. The rhythm section seem to be channelling later period Beatles, Josh is playing solos behind the vocals as well as in the tiny gaps left between them and then there are those glorious keyboard/organ swathes which are so important to the HEK sound. This time round, there are fewer instrumental showcase passages than on other tracks: they all come together for one unified arrangement and again that takes me back to my earlier point how they all favour the song & the band over individual agendas.

I do not nominate "singles of the week" but there are those who do & if they do not pick "Sinking Stones": why ever not?

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