Hiva Oa
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Hiva Oa

Belfast, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | INDIE

Belfast, United Kingdom | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Alternative Electronic




"Seskinore Premiere"

Still sounding distinctly unique, lead track ‘A Great Height’ was a wonderfully promising return, and such expectations are raised even further thanks to the weighty brilliance of new track ‘Seskinore‘...A heavyweight, wonderfully compelling next-step. - Gold Flake Paint

"BBC 6 Music Recommends"

Steve Lamacq: "There's something quite solitary about's one of those records that sounds like it's just out of reach but at the same time it'd still like to be loved" - BBC Radio 6 Music

"Premiere: Hiva Oa - 'A Great Height'"

Having returned to their native Ireland after residing in Edinburgh, Stephen Houlihan and Christine Tubridy turn their attention to the laws and imprint of fear, loneliness, abandonment and awakening on the new release, something that’s impressively manifest on its lead single ‘A Great Height’. Evoking the likes of PVT, The Twilight Sad and a more inward-looking Not Squares, the track’s swirling flurry of contorting electronica, weaving bass patterns and braying guitar swells meld to create a wonderfully oppressive three minutes where Houlihan’s brittle, Thom Yorke-esque admissions come into sharp focus. - The Thin Air

"Across The Line"

Defies genre…intense to the point of almost being tribal. - BBC Radio Ulster

"Eddy Temple Morris (Soho Radio)"

"I think this is really special"
"I think this should be tied for the best record in the world this week"

"How about that? I think that's something else, really distinctive, weird in a good way" - SOHO Radio


Music that transports you far away to a weird and wonderful place is rare. The melodic road to somewhere beautiful and new is difficult to find these days, and it’s wonderfully refreshing when a band comes along, arms open wide, willing to take you on the journey with them. Hiva Oa’s double A-side single “Badger / Urban” does just that.

Although their debut album The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss was released earlier this year, both double A-side tracks feel like they belong to the winter, and it seems apt they’re ending the year with this release. “Badger” melds almost trip-hop beats with ghostly vocals to create a sound that transcends folk and alternative indie. Here, Hiva Oa manage to create a thought provoking and intelligent genre all of their own.

With “Urban” the band return to a more traditional sound that feels more akin to bands like Mount Eerie; this is stripped-back, honest folk that’s simple and sublime. These two tracks display a dual personality to the three-piece that will hopefully shake some life into the straight-forward indie-folk scene that’s risen in the last few years. With newer material promised for 2013, Hiva Oa may well be one of next year’s most exciting prospects. - The Vinyl District


Electrical and chemistry changes are telling your brain to try and process ‘Badger’ but let yourself immerse in it. I haven’t heard many artists taking the opposite direction from shoegaze, lo-fi pop this year, Hiva Oa certainly have. It feels like ‘Badger’ was conjured up in an abandoned chemistry lab, were once a crazed scientist taunted the musical mind. Take any musical sensibilities you had and throw them in the bin. The heartbeat sitting in the background, synchronized chaos chopping from deep classical instruments, harmless synths adding an extra layer rather than being used to construct the song. The whole track builds a mountain worth of momentum the whole way through, the haunting vocals channel you away from what you expected to be a drawn out intro. Then the last minute of the track is all that momentum released with precision timing. You don’t get to choose how you feel about Badger it chooses the emotion for you.
Then in walks in an acoustic track, which is the last thing you expect to come through that open door. Two tracks just showing how diverse Hiva Oa are. From intense noise generation to a laid back acoustic track the calm after the storm rather than before. The heavy breathing at the start touching on a raw acoustic vibe, repetitive guitar, textured with some unidentifiable chimes and again the use of classical instruments, brings a real sense of intrigue and fixation. A perfect storm for an acoustic track executed perfectly. - Fish in a Sub


It’s been a while since I heard a band for the first time and felt immediately obliged to write about them. Edinburgh’s Hiva Oa stirred a strong urge in me after one spin of their forthcoming debut single Badger though, and after my fourth or fifth listen I was convinced they might be a bit special. This track certainly suggests a ton of potential, as it billows back and forth a brewing storm of droning hums and weathered strings amidst delicate vocals which builds to a cathartic noisy cadence. There’s not a whole lot of material by these guys around just now but this is definitely worth checking out. Here’s the very cool video for the single, directed by Ciaran Lyons. Badger will be released through Mini50 Records soon, check their website for more info. - Sonic Reverie


Hiva Oa are something of a phenomenon for me. Scottish music is presenting me 3 different types of music at the moment (this is based purely on email submissions). Firstly, I have the female fronted electronica, next we have the Biffy Clyro influenced bands and lastly we have the acoustic soloists.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great artists to come out of these 3 categories, but then it gets a bit saturated. So when artists such as Hiva Oa come along, it is like the same kind of relief you get when you pay all your bills off.
‘Badger’ is one of those tracks that you can describe as a genre bender. Categorising music for many artists is an instant put off, but sorry folks it has to be done. However, when it comes to pigeon holing ‘Badger’ I am flummoxed.
The variation and ultimately expression of sound is some of the most emotive I have heard this year. Ideally, it is artists like this that should be receiving the same level of praise as outfits such as the Hidden Orchestra. Loops of warmth, melancholy strings and a pulsating, almost inaudible bassline make this something indescribable, yet incredible.
‘Badger’ is a testament to Hiva Oa that despite much of its synthetic origin, it is as organic as they come. - Glasgow Podcart

"Future Nostalgia for sale"

Sometimes you get things immediately, and sometimes you don’t. Usually the reasons are frame of mind or something like that, and what brings you round is listening to something with fresh ears a while later when you’re paying more attention or feeling differently, or sometimes once familiarity has allowed you to understand the music a little differently.

In this case the band will probably be pulling their hair out reading this review, because they emailed me ages ago about their stuff, and it ended up getting a bit lost in my inbox, and I can’t remember if I eventually just gave up on it or if I just emailed them apologising and saying I wasn’t into, but whatever it was it wasn’t my finest moment.

So far so mundane, but what’s slightly odd about this is that I was recently emailed by a producer of music videos wanting to advertise his services and what did he choose to showcase his work but a recent video he had made for Hiva Oa – the one at the top of the page in fact. And for some reason, and believe me I have absolutely no idea what was different this time around – I thought ‘gosh, that’s quite good’.

This is the Edinburgh band’s first EP, and apparently precedes debut album to The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss, which is pencilled in for release in May 2012 on local label Mini50. Like much of Mini50's output, the music is slow as hell and based far more around atmosphere than melody, so it does take a bit of listening to, but I do think it’s worth the time.

Much of the atmosphere here is dominated by the whispered singing, minimal acoustic guitar and relatively underemployed cello. Badger, the first song on the EP and the one from the video which drew me in, has a denser, more layered and rumbling sound, with really nice skittery cymbals. Thereafter the EP sticks to a more familiar, acoustic guitar-based format, sparingly embellished with strings and the barest of vocal harmonies – at least until the wonderfully sinister second half of 9 minute closing track Morning, that is.

It’s not insistent music, but it’s quite demanding in the sense that inattentive listens really are pointless. But if you give it your full attention then it really is lovely, and I feel a little bemused that I somehow failed to notice this the first time the band got in touch with me.
- Song by Toad

"The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss."

There is an undercurrent of excitement among musicians. None of them are earning a living yet, but perhaps that is one of the reasons. The liberating effect of dividing money from creativity.
No one wants to give MP3 files away as gifts anymore. iTunes gift cards are even worse: Here, go spend some of my money for me. Merry Christmas. Listeners want to buy and receive vinyl and cassettes, along with physical packaging. They prefer the sound of physical media. Compact disc? Sure. By all means the artists can keep their toys: the DAWs, the virtual instruments, the software. But FTP is for their day jobs. For sending and receiving music, they want the distributors to lick a stamp. Oh, and the traditional gatekeepers are patting down their pockets looking for the keys, just as the rest of us are.
This has had an impact on the music being written, not just the way music is packaged and consumed. And speaking of the merging of the electronic and the acoustic, the debut Hiva Oa EP Future Nostalgia for sale had no right to be as good as it was. Mastered by friend-of-site Matthew Collings and released by groovy troublemakers Mini 50 Records, Hiva Oa’s debut EP was even better than all that name-dropping portended. Opening track “Badger” spun us into an oscillating cocoon, with wave profiles both natural and box-drawn. “Urban” was a bit more representative of the band’s whisper-and-strum ethic, but the inexact rattling of metal noisemaker was a brilliant, unexpected, and, yes, nostalgic touch. These two songs — alongside eight previously unreleased ones — form The awkward hello, handshake, kiss, Hiva Oa’s now long-awaited debut album.
For those readers already familiar with Hiva Oa, know that the ante has been raised, the air is thinning. The core remains unchanged: guitar, bass, and cello. Indeed, the two-cello arrangement “Seadog” is one of the finest three minutes of music this year. Not gripping as much as it is groping, the track claws through the downy, AM radio coat with crushing string dialogue and precise dissonance. The only fully instrumental piece, “Seadog” proves that Hiva Oa can hold their own with the tuxedos on any court. And The awkward hello… warms discernibly as it progresses, the latter half of the album brews into a true dopamine bath. “Badger” is wisely placed at the front end of this denouement, followed by the floating and minimal “Thunder,” which features the delicate, big-sky vocals of Hailey Beavis (Beavis appears on several tracks, and her accompaniment to Stephen’s vocals is pure highlands). “Seadog” and the beseeching “Call of the wind” conclude the album, with the latter track’s stark refrain: “So let it burn, let it burn.” If you don’t like the sensation of your hair standing on end, you might wax your arms before you listen.
Of the album’s first half, stand-outs are “These Hands” and “Urban.” “These hands” is an early crescendo of elemental voice, stirring cello, and fault lines of chiming guitar. During their live performances, this will be the one that goes on for ten unscheduled minutes, and with a broken guitar string. “Urban” needs little introduction, having haunted listeners since March with its half-playful, half-mournful pedigree. The boyish heartache here is positively wrecking, and it doesn’t help much that the percussion lines are assembled from those toy box instruments.
It is much more difficult than it seems, complementing tannin-heavy acoustics with the voltaic crackle of electronics (for those listeners impressed with how “Badger” synthesized the two, turn now to “Mindful Of”). On scales both microscopic and wide-view, The awkward hello, handshake, kiss is a careful composition, a moving, retrained work of art, and a triumph. - The Muse in Music

"Live Review"

Hiva Oa (named after an island in Tahiti beloved by painter Paul Gauguin and writer/adventurers including Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London and Jacques Brel, who penned his final works there, pop-lit fans) creep out of the gloom with an altogether shyer concoction that recalls the skewed murmurings of Movietone and all the other wonky Bristol bands that pursued more twisted, trip-hop free avenues.

Male and female vocals dovetail to a basic backing of guitar, bass and cello. From this starting pad, a more Sensurround experience of glockenspiel and martial drums are thrown into a scratchily looped mix that swirls and sways its way into being. Such quietude recalls the very English avant-chamber miniatures by composer Jan Steele on his side of an album also featuring work by John Cage and released on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label in 1976. Like Steele's intricate compositions, Hiva Oa stick to the shadows, erupting into a rolling thunder as the band's swapping of instruments becomes a little spectacle in itself before coming to a hush once more. - The List

"Live Review"

...In any case, the band were excellent. The first set started with only the lead vocalist on stage. He goes only by ‘Stephen’ on the band’s website, and the first song was simply him and an electric guitar, before the rest of the band joined him. The ‘rest of the band’ is bass, drums and cello, with some extra percussion and female backing vocals here and there.

Hiva Oa’s music has organic elements, and there are times when it seems quite pastoral and pretty, but for the most part they dangle the quiet loveliness in front of you like some sort of threat. As you get to know their music you know it is capable of exploding into discord and racket at pretty much any time, so even the gentle moments are tinged with a vague sense of unease. They like their drone and the obvious comparison would be Song, by Toad Records’ Rob St. John, with whom they have shared a stage in the past, where the folk elements may be there, but they come laced with the darkness of being disorientated in thick woods on a rainy evening, rather than the grating affectations of the home counties trustifarian.

It was a mesmerising show, and even my somewhat sceptical hipster gig companion was won over by the end. Their music isn’t immediate, but it’s grand and compelling, and the unusual setting and ubiquitous visuals helped give it a suitably impressive stage. I like this lot. I’ve not heard many other people get that enthused about them, but on this showing that can only be because people are generally just Wrong About Music. Idiots. - Song By Toad

"The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss."

Now I cannot say this with total certainty, but Scotland has quite the indie pop scene going. In Kilsyth, there is The Twilight Sad. In Glasgow, the mighty Franz Ferdinand stands as one the undisputed leaders of indie rock’s post-punk revival. And last but not least, We Were Promised Jetpacks, the geniuses behind 2009’s These Four Walls, are kings in the capital of Edinburgh. Well, from the sounds of The awkward hello, handshake, kiss, We Were Promised Jetpacks do not rule Edinburgh alone.

Hiva Oa, the Edinburgh three-piece behind The awkward hello, handshake, kiss, present a uniquely Gaelic sound blending and contorting enough musical genres to keep your Wikipedia busy for a few hours. On The awkward hello, handshake, kiss, the band’s third release, Hiva Oa generate enough “mood music” to please the typical college freshman and enough “brainy” music to please… well… the typical college freshman. This is not me being facetious; Hiva Oa sound incredibly youthful and somber at the same time, just like most folks in their late teens/early twenties. The awkward hello, handshake, kiss oscillates between slow, mournful walks and mid-tempo drone tracks resembling the dreamier shades of shoegazing indie rock. Very few of the songs on The awkward hello, handshake, kiss are exuberant, but there are a few tracks as close to “action” as a snail-paced record can get.

For instance, the ending of “The floods have woken the quiet sleepers” is a rousing crescendo of luscious feminine vocals sounding suspiciously like orgasms. The flipside of that ending is the beginning of “The Minder,” a minimalist dirge presenting banshee vocals sounding like they just came haunting down from the Highlands. Both “The floods have woken the quiet sleepers” and “The Minder” are unsettling songs; for, both make one uneasy because their strangeness is so lovely and their loveliness is so strange. “The floods have woken the quiet sleepers” does indeed sound like a dream song building towards an awakening not as pleasant as its antecedent. Similarly, “The Minder” is a creeping lullaby reminding us why the Scottish are often called thought of as the “somber Celts.”

The mournful quality of The awkward hello, handshake, kiss is pervasive, but it shouldn’t deter more convivial listeners. The awkward hello, handshake, kiss’s melancholy sound may lack uplift, but it certainly does not lack beauty. The cello on “These hands” is emotionally commanding, while the Telecaster-driven dreamscape of “Not in my name” is as comforting and warm as one of those turn-of-the-century postcards Jeff Mangum loves so much. There is also an adolescent spirit on The awkward hello, handshake, kiss, with “Thunder” standing out as sounding like a song mom might have sung.

Despite such childlike moments, The awkward hello, handshake, kiss is a deadly serious record incorporating the theory-intensive elements of free jazz, neo-classical, and folk. “Mindful Of,” the sixth track on the album, can be taken as the embodiment of Hiva Oa’s musical experimentation; it sounds like it was recorded in a reverb-heavy alien spaceship which happened to have stringed instruments lying about. The otherworldly quality of “Mindful Of” is a little out of keeping with the record: a bizarre, yet very down-to-earth affair. The only other track approaching the oddity of “Mindful Of” is “Seadog,” which sounds like the soundtrack music to a silent German Expressionist film. The album’s final track, “Call of the wind,” wraps the album up nicely by forgoing the sonic weirdness of “Mindful Of” and “Seadog” in favor of a well-produced and clean-sounding track bifurcated between sounding like a lament and a rising affirmation.

The awkward hello, handshake, kiss is not really an exciting album because it is hard to get “excited” about such maudlin music. That said, the pure musicianship of Hiva Oa is enough the pull the whole album through its own doldrums. And while it is by no means a “flashy” record, The awkward hello, handshake, kiss is a well-produced full-length containing many dulcet tones. is also worth your listen because it is the inverse of the historical trajectory of Celtic-based music. Rather than make more abrasive music sound cheery (think about what The Undertones did to punk rock), The awkward hello, handshake, kiss makes already sad-sounding music that much more doleful. - In Your Speakers

"The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss."

Having peaked Fluid Radio’s interest with teaser EP Future Nostalgia For Sale, Hiva Oa now release their debut album, The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss. As promised by that first taste, it is a lonely, introverted, melancholy album. A three-piece using mainly cello, guitar, percussion and vocals, Hiva Oa’s songs bring to mind Logh at their most sparse, with rich, un-showy instrumentals, solidly regular guitar strums and a voice both breathy and deceptively strong. And like Logh, darkness is rarely far behind them.

The sadness of The Awkward Hello is deep-rooted, so much so that it is never shaken off even by the couple of times that the band let go into a fuller, driving crescendo. When ‘we are free’ rings out in the first track, it somehow sounds more like ‘there is nothing worth being free for’. That sort of resignation inhabits much of the album, sombre, simple guitar plucking backed by even more sombre, low cello melodies. Thankfully Hiva Oa do drag themselves up from their navel-gazing occasionally, beautiful as it is. Manic drums and distortion bring some anger and defiance to the end of “These Hands”, whose repeating line is ‘we fall apart’ – the first suggestion that these Scotsmen aren’t going down so quietly. By the time the gorgeous harmonies of ‘let it burn’ flicker around each other on the closing track, we are pleasantly uncertain whether the singer intends to consume himself in the flames as well or start afresh. The lighter, cleaner airs of the song’s second half perhaps suggest the latter.

Those vocal harmonies are one of the highlights of the album. The male/female harmonies in particular complement each other perfectly, her dulcet tones, accompanied by a crystalline glockenspiel bringing the note of hope to the opener that its lyrics so yearn for. In “The Minder” the two voices dance a wispy, insubstantial step that makes individual lines difficult to hear, until one voice gathers itself for a string of audible words. The interaction of the voices though, their shifting prominence and reluctance to fall in step with one another, speak unmistakably of love, resentment and entrapment, with few words necessary. It’s almost a shame that the harmonies don’t feature on every song, but when the male voice is left alone it reveals its versatility, an unexpected strength on “These Hands” and …

Hiva Oa are also wise to embellish their basic setup with other instruments from time to time. Glockenspiel, accordion (possibly), some unusual choices of percussion and a rich bass line on “Thunder” add variety amongst the bleakness. However, when the band goes more obviously electronic, the results are mixed. The feedback and oscillating, pitchshifting buzzes on “Mindful Of” are too far removed from the album’s normally organic, warmly lo-fi sound; the delayed, spacey vocals don’t help either. “Badger”, one of the tracks previewed on their recent EP, fares a lot better, its synths focused on melody with a much less jarring tone. Carried by one of the more confident vocal performances and relying heavily on acoustic drums for its exciting build-up it fits a lot better with the surrounding songs, and the second injection of pace and volume after “These Hands” is well timed.

A sunny, Pacific island seems a strange namesake for this band. But it is easy to imagine islands as lonely, introverted places, but at the same time quietly staunch, a solid outcrop surrounded by uncertainty, even if maybe The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss might be more suited to an Orkney than a Marquesas. Perhaps sunnier climes are on the way and, having delivered on the promise of Future Nostalgia For Sale, Hiva Oa can happily think of themselves as a bright new drop in the musical ocean. - Fluid Radio


EP - mkII (part 1)

Single - A Great Height 

Single - Badger

LP - 'The Awkward Hello, Handshake, KIss'.



Sometimes, it seems, a period of inactivity is better for a band than one of constant creation. With the release of their forthcoming EP mk2 (part 1), core members Stephen Houlihan and Christine Tubridy departed Edinburgh, returning to their native Ireland seeking renewed inspiration. Hiva Oa retain the mystery and ambition of their former incarnations, but inject a heavy thrum to their intricate patchwork style, and turn their attentions to themes of fear, loneliness, abandonment and awakening.

On lead single A Great Height the band continue their controlled experimentation by marrying primal, dizzying electronica and a swelling bass hum, with minimal guitar patterns to create a tightly wound, suffocating and intense atmosphere that sets the tone for the EP. Somewhat appropriately it’s an anxious listen, the influence of Thom Yorke on vocalist Stephen Houlihan here provides the forlorn, and almost hopeless, punctuating refrain “…and I fall from a great height.”  Elsewhere Seskinore demonstrates their skill in developing percussive motifs that flit from the suspenseful and shuffling, to eruptive, deafening, conclusions. A powerful resolution to each composition is never far from the minds of Hiva Oa.

The latter part of mk2 (part 1) begins to bring subtler intricacies to the fore. Christine is awash with swathes of gentle guitar, gifting the four-minute piece a transcendent quality that, coupled with another yearning vocal, offers the listener a brief glimpse into one of the EP’s more intimate moments, in this near-fearful, dream-like, serenade. Closing track Jonny Brazil again shifts unassumingly from sinewy indie-rock before revealing a raft of squalling guitars and inter-playing vocal melodies. Hiva Oa have become masters of developing atmospheres proving that, for them, a visit to old pastures has worked wonders. 

Band Members