Hourglass Sea
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Hourglass Sea

Bradford, England, United Kingdom | SELF

Bradford, England, United Kingdom | SELF
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"Live From The Crematorium EP Review"

Video games and music have a short but sweet history together. Some of the most iconic songs and sound bites from our generation came from or were inspired by video games. I mean, if you don't know the Super Mario Bros. Theme, then you may have some major pop-culture catching up to do. The legacies of such prolific video game composers as Yuzo Koshiro, who produced the outstanding sound track to the Streets of Rage series, or the creator of the Super Mario Bros. music, Koji Kando, live on even to this day. In fact, the trends they created and barriers they broke paved the way for the ensuing post-'80s and '90s electronic music.

Many musicians within the last ten years have begun to take cues from these celebrated works. Their influence isn't literal; instead, it serves as a jumping off point to create a whole new entity all together. The Canadian duo Crystal Castles (not to be mistaken with the 1983 Arcade Game) utilizes Atari synth sounds to fill in the skeleton of their shocking pop explosions. Their sound can fluctuate from bubbly sweetness to blood-curdling harshness with the bat of an 8-bit eye.

Guido is another great example of a musician using video game music solely as inspiration to compose atmospheric sounds. Instead of the glitchy 8-bit form of his contenders, Guido gains inspiration from the orchestrated instruments of the great Nobuo Uematsu, who created the scores for the Final Fantasy series. With occasional dub-step tendencies, Guido crafts some moody string-led electronic jams.

Dean Bentley of Hourglass Sea has a few things in common with these two, but he takes a slightly different approach. Like Crystal Castles and Guido, Hourglass Sea doesn't just use video game sounds and samples as a gimmick to create an instantly recognizable and relatable song. Instead, he encapsulates the late '80's and early '90's pop culture, while remaining very relevant in the current UK music scene. He employs smooth synth lines, vocal samples and noise blips effectively layered about bombastic drum beats and some legit '80s metal guitar solos. "I just want my music to be very loud, melodic and busy."

Hourglass Sea's inspirations are as varied as his sound, which is difficult to pin point. The influences for this distinguishable sound stem from Streets of Rage, Paradise Lost, Little River Band, Robocop and S.O.S Band, which seems apparent when compared to his synth style and beat progressions. These diverse influences combine with his background as an MC under the L.G.P. moniker, to create some heavy yet incredibly melodic and smooth bangers. He's currently working on releasing a collaborative effort under his L.G.P. title.

The singles leading up to the release of Hourglass Sea's Live from the Crematorum EP leaned towards the brighter side of the sound. Unlike the polished crispness of his new material, his former songs possess a rougher yet breezy quality. “Teenager” has a glitchy hip-hop feel that occasionally seems ready to burst at the seams with sound. “L.A. Lights” contains a tropicalia spin centered around sunny key strokes and the chime of the coin in Super Mario Bros. An all too familiar “yeah” sample fills the space, reminding us that Dean Bentley hasn't forgotten his roots.

The singles that dropped between "L.A. Lights/Teenager" and the release of LFTC were truly transitional pieces. They contain a polished sound indicative of LFTC. "Time Killer" is a crisply delivered and steady paced jam that sounds as if it could be the sound track to a Ken & Ryu duel. "I wanted to make quite an aggressive beat...The title is kind of a statement to ignore what kinds of sounds [and] styles belong in each decade. I think these days anything goes." And in Dean Bentleys hands anything certainly does go. "Crystal Kross" opens with a jackhammer beat and a warm and raspy guitar riff. Static drums carry the song at leisurely pace. The structured sequences of sustain soaked guitar into dreamy synth pangs continues back and forth until it culminates into a glistening wind-down.

The release of LFTC marked a slight change for Hourglass Sea. There is a definite glittering shadow cast over these tracks. The inspiration behind the songs can be summed up with Dean's experience growing up next to a cemetery as a child in Lidget Green. “All the titles from LFTC are references to death... The place where I grew up - we lived over the road from Scholemoor Cemetery. Living next to a place like that seems to bother some people, but it never bothered me. Sometimes you have to use your imagination and make the best of where you reside... On the one side it has a very English working class look about it, with its mills and terraced streets... but on the other side it had green fields that went on for miles. I suppose I liked the variation... It's more of a tribute to the people I knew and where we grew up.”

The title track from Live from the Crematorium possesses a very laid back jazz timing. A stammering drum beat forms the background while a bluesy guitar solo washes over a piping synth. “Divine Sealing” displays an effervescent intro. Synth choir notes build up with a whirl into HS's signature change-up thumping drum beat. Machine gun synths fire into a deep bass-cut breakdown with heavy-handed Balearic piano.

The second half of the four track EP begins to throw back to the previously released singles by displaying Dean's knack for cleverly placed vocal samples. The search for the samples contained in each song almost becomes a pop-culture hide-and-seek. The bass drenched outro of “Divine Sealing” leads into the boiling beat of “Memory Eternal.” “Memory Eternal” contains samples of Street Fighter character Guile's iconic “Sonic Boom” declaration following the video game announcer exclaiming “Perfect!” The EP's closer "Another World" begins with a glittery sped-up rendition of the down-tempo prog-rock of Little River Band's "Reappear" that slams into a brassy synth wall. A wavering siren pulses in the background as the grinding bass line runs its course. This track incorporates the "C'mon" sample contained in any MC's repertoire along with the pitchy LRB sample "When will you reappear?"

There's something special about Dean Bentley. His songs truly contain so much, it's hard to believe how smooth they roll. At one moment you feel as if Guile from Street Fighter is piloting one of the Blue Angels jets in Van Halen's music video for "Dreams," and the next moment Blaze from Streets of Rage is in line at a Little River Band concert in Super Mario World. In the hands of someone scared to use a little excess Hourglass Sea would be boring. Conversely; someone without a sense of true restraint would end up sounding like the purported "nintendocore" of Horse the Band. Dean Bentley's balance of these two is impeccable and we should anticipate a career as bright as his sound, and those who inspired it. - Denzinger Design


"Memory Eternal - Snipe Magazine's MP3 of the day"

It’s fair to say Bradford is not exactly renowned as a hotbed of musical talent (anybody who mentions the word ‘Terrorvision’ will be taken outside and shot). Dean Bentley, a.k.a. Hourglass Sea, is doing his bit to drag the West Yorkshire town out of the shadow of near neighbours Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester. His new Live From The Crematorium EP is a mixture of video game samples (‘Memory Eternal’) and vhs or Beta style guitar licks (‘Live From The Crematorium’), over the sort of 80s/90s electro that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of a Paul Verhoeven film from the same - Snipe Magazine


"Hourglass Sea"

The problem with pretty much every conurbation of any size is the history and meaning that people assign to it, this bizarre web of mythology that people from elsewhwere probably couldn’t ever give a fuck about. Manchester is particularly bad, coming close to Liverpool in overemphasising it’s own standing in the world of music. As far as home towns go, Bradford is mercifully slim on the amount weight of importance it can even dream of having on the history of popular music. Local talent is largely drawn to the bigger, more impressive lights of Leeds or even across the pennines, rarely to be seen again, with a ‘scene’ rarely anything more than tepid.

If Hourglass Sea is anything to go by, at least we can be assured that chillwave has dripped through to the city, and long enough for the city to be getting bored of it. The work of Dean Bentley, this is a project that sounds like Solar Bears being played on the wrong speed setting, a hyperactive mass of noise that doesn’t quite seem certain where it’s going. That’s no bad thing, though – there’s the odd nod to chiptune, a sample or two that could’ve been taken from a classic hip-hop record, all strung together with a sugar-rush of synth. It seeks to overwhelm, and it’s best if you let it. In the space of two songs, Bentley may have moved into being West Yorkshire’s most promising musical talent. - The Pigeon Post


"Hourglass Sea"

Growing up with any guitar scene, it’s difficult to know what you really like and what you’ve simply been drawn in by: is it the catchy guitar riff that you’re in love with or is the fact that NME have turned the band members into larger than life demi gods whose every move seems to have enormous importance and significance? The difference is even harder to make out for anyone who has grown away from a musical ‘hub’ – and though Bradford may only be an hour or so away from Manchester and Leeds, it almost feels like another dimension.

Hourglass Sea comes from those same Yorkshire wilds, a city so musically desolate that the first hit for ‘Bradford music’ generally comes up with a link to something Deerhunter related. It seems that if Dean Bentley, the man behind the project, ever had to wrestle a mild interest in indie, the landfill certainly lost. In its absence, Bentley has managed to piece together a series of tracks that keep their production values ludicrously high, especially considering they were likely made on a budget lower than what most people spend on a daily paper.

The inspiration behind the music seems rooted in that bizarre, neon time that signified the late 80’s and early 90’s, utilising soaring guitars as well as samples from Street Fighter to flesh out the shimmering electro that is its core. The internet is awash with bedroom producers all doing something vaguely similar, and this retro-tinged element is a running theme – overindulged middle class twenty-somethings yearning for their lost childhood perhaps – but this is done without cliché and, remarkably, without stepping on the toes of any contemporaries. Where Star Slinger looks towards J Dilla for inspiration and Washed Out searches for new ways to apply reverb, Hourglass Sea is all about adding another layer of polish to an already glimmering racket. - This Is Fake DIY - Matthew Britton


Discography

L.A Lights/Teenager - debut single

Crystal Kross/Time Killer - single

Live From The Crematorium EP:
Memory Eternal
Another World
Live From The Crematorium
Divine Sealing

Tubbs & Crockett/Home Again - single

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Bio

Music scenes rarely die, they’re usually just bettered. So whilst chillwave still lives on, it’s difficult to take it seriously when they’re something as jaw droppingly excellent as Hourglass Sea just a click away. Coming out of a scene in Bradford, West Yorkshire that is pretty much non-existent, Dean Bentley is literally almost peerless. Combining electronic bombast with looped guitar and an ear for a sample, this is one of the true innovative sounds to emerge in 2011. Following a string of much hyped tracks, work has now begun on a 7 track EP, due early summer, with much anticipated debut live shows beforehand.