The St. Louis music ecosystem is a curious thing, with its own cycles of hype and buzz, and its own rewards for productivity and lethargy. The fact is, whether a band releases an album every nine months or every five years, its members will likely be no closer to quitting their day jobs. So the long leadup to Bear Hive's official full-length follows a well-liked EP and a few years' worth of ground-level indie buzz, but the kinetic, assured All in Real Time is moody, evocative and danceable in almost equal measure. The trio of Joel Burton, Nate Heininger and Chris Phillips can operate as a guitar/bass/drums unit with shades of post-punk gray and Afro-pop red, though every track on this album is further colored by some form of electronic synthesis, either through scattershot drum programming or squiggly sine waves.
A few of Bear Hive's songs owe no small debt to local trailblazers So Many Dynamos -- one listen to the fetching "Lunar Lucent" and its plucky, snaking guitar lines and Moog-y synth laid over pulsing drums makes that clear -- so it is fitting that the band recorded with original Dynabro Ryan Wasoba at his Bird Cloud Recording. Wasoba's production is as clear and precise as ever, and the band's arrangement shows little fat. At its best, Bear Hive delights in weaving an ethereal, gauzy scrim around its songs and then punching holes through it. Much of the album is polite (of note: Bear Hive covered LCD Soundsystem for 2014's An Under Cover Weekend, but hems closer to the restrained politesse of the Postal Service), though some moments on the record display sufficient rock-band fervor. "Wigwam" swarms with benevolent keyboard sirens behind plaintive vocals until a loose, papery snare drum and clanging cymbals fight for space. That energy transfers over to the following track, "Daze for Days," which trades its light shoegaze beginnings for a Wurlitzer-pounding, stand-and-shout finale that's as arena-worthy as the first half of the album is coffee-shop-comfortable. That type of bait-and-switch makes very few of these ten tracks truly representational of a Bear Hive sound, whatever that might be, but it does reward a close listen to an album that uncovers nuances within (and between) its songs.
Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.