Hiperson’s new album Bildungsroman is out now via Maybe Mars.
As a medium, albums occupy a space where their singular parts are analyzed as a cohesive unit beyond the wishes and/or origins of said pieces. Theming for an entire album is a goalpost so far away from writing enough songs to fill a quick opening set that it’s oftentimes not even in most debuting artists’ crosshairs. This ethic isn’t limited to debuts; some artists (especially with streaming models to game) categorize their works as mixtapes, playlists, or compilations years into their careers. Thus, should albums be regarded in a similar manner to films, where the precedence is on the entire product, as opposed to scenes sewn together? How just is it to critique an artist’s use of refrains or leitmotifs if half of the songs on their newest album were written across multiple years? If an album does hem to an overlapping theme, sound, or songwriting principle, does that signify a “better” album than one that eschews those?
The only definitive position is that when an album is an album – with an attention to detail that transforms the work into an intentional suite – it’s gratifying. Albums with an ear towards a larger scope reward listeners for their attentiveness. Think of albums like The Monitor or Brother, Sister and how an unbroken listen is required to fully ingest the work. That is the greatest triumph of Bildungsroman, Hiperson’s opus that exemplifies the unique strengths of albums.
Bildungsroman is a genre of literature that details a character’s formative years, focusing on their moral and spiritual growth. Bildungsroman is also Chengdu-hailing Hiperson’s third album that osmoses the literary style into the format of an album. The art-rock quintet start their protagonist’s journey with a tragedy. ‘Spring Breeze’ ignites the song, story, and album with a simple frame – a break-up. In the span of seven minutes, Hiperson soar through spoken word, punk, and Chinese folk. Various distinct passages prance through the track before it teeters on the edge of a cliff then plunges into a valley on the wings of a pipa solo. ‘Spring Breeze’ is the perfect introduction by showing all of the cards in Hiperson’s hands – Chen Sijang’s dominating vocals, the group’s penchant for passages as opposed to standard choruses and verses, and a laissez-faire philosophy regarding the rigidity of genre.
In the first three tracks, Hiperson bound from the tour-de-force that is ‘Spring Breeze’ to raucous art rock to indie pop balladry. ‘Xindu People”s lower key registers and forlorn atmosphere shouldn’t cooperate with the harmonies of Chen Sijang and Ji Yinan. However, in tandem they illustrate the isolation the protagonist feels in the densely populated Xindu. Hiperson return to their post-punk trappings on ‘I Am In A Period of Desperation’. The guitar squeals yet the track is more indebted to indie rock than Hiperson’s angular 2018 album She Came Back From the Square.
Bildungsroman’s variable structure serves the narrative. When the protagonist falters the band shifts to low registers to insulate the listener. As the protagonist revels in the joy of companionship on ‘I Don’t Want Another Life’ Hiperson echo her sentiment with a rallying cry backed by a marching drum beat. Though the songs hold their own when divided, together they form a spectacular arc. Bildungsroman’s inherent focus on development is shown through Hiperson’s refusal to use the same trick twice. Case in point, the album’s second single ‘Our Ballad’. The track features a beautifully layered indie rock core that subtlety evolves over seven minutes while the band revels in more overt vocal expressions like spoken word poetry, sampling, and an indie-folk whistling coda. There’s no neck-breaking diversions here, only maturations in sound that mirror the protagonist’s eventual revelation that their fulfilment is a process, not a destination.
Bildungsroman’s momentum is courtesy of the group’s willingness to take their songs wherever they please. As each track closes one salivates in anticipation of where the next song will venture. Will it be the bassy, melancholic ‘Happy Times Always Pass Fast’, or the fiery ‘Daily March’, where Hiperson wills the listener to fight for the future? When Bildungsroman concludes a journey has been completed. Propelled by faith in their strengths Hiperson deliver a work that fulfils the promises of its medium.
Order Bildungsroman via Bandcamp.