Compared to the erratic, noise filled releases The Spirit of the Beehive has become known for, Hypnic Jerks is a relative lullaby. Not that the Philadelphia band’s third album really qualifies as conventional, but the distorted basement punk of the past, filled with frequent hard turns into left field, has mellowed to a dreamy psych-pop where auditory oddities create a softer sound collage.
Tying Hypnic Jerks together is a series of uncertain sound bites, mostly taken from bassist Rivka Ravede’s old family recordings. These and other outbursts come more occasionally than the sound tangents of the band’s past while breezy psychedelia fills out the majority of the album.
The vocals hum faintly through most tracks with woozy synth playing a role almost equal to that of the guitars which favor a light jangle over hard distortion. The whole album seems to be enveloped in a soft warmth. Comparisons are far easier to psychedelic artists like Tame Impala (note the bassline on “d.o.u.b.l.e.u.r.o.n.g.”) or MGMT (heard in the lazy rock of tracks like “(without you) in my pocket”) than previous Spirit of the Beehive contemporaries from the indie punk circuit. The punk influence is still present though, heard most clearly in “can i receive the contact?” and “hypnic jerks,” the latter featuring a vocal tone closely mirroring the style of Parquet Courts.
The contrast between the dreamier atmosphere of the album and the eerily treated samples that interject plays into the titular reference. The slow and hazy music moves like a procession to sleep, yet the sudden interruptions jerk away from that lull—hypnic jerks, as these abrupt waking-ups are known.
It’s perhaps the strongest theme throughout the album, as much of the lyrical and musical choices seem to lean toward disconnected wandering. Full of seemingly meaningful, if arbitrarily selected, phrases (like the near-end conversation sample: “can you take me back to where I was before?”; “Yes, sir, by the way where were you before?”; “just take me there”) Hypnic Jerk is a collage of feeling more than a focused message. The lyrics, like the music, blur together separate ideas with little context until an image or idea forms. For The Spirit of the Beehive, the priority is mood and the meaning is always felt more than it is spoken.