Blue Hawaii
Untogether

by Jim Di Gioia

November 4, 2018

At turns exotic, erotic, and erratic, Blue Hawaii’s 2013 debut Untogether is an enveloping experience.

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“Exciting music in the world’s lushest paradise of song!” That tagline, associated with Elvis Presley’s 1961 movie Blue Hawaii, could easily be applied to Untogether, the 2013 debut album from Montreal’s Blue Hawaii.

While I’d be hesitant to punctuate that description with an exclamation point, Blue Hawaii’s music is like a garden –a lush landscape of succulent and seductive sounds. At turns exotic, erotic, and erratic, Untogether is an enveloping experience. You would be forgiven for assuming that album opener “Follow” is two or three different tracks if you weren’t paying attention; it’s five and a half minutes of loosely woven vocal overdubs and silence interspersed with techno beats and blips. Far from being a criticism, this free structure is the formula that makes “Follow” an intensely hypnotic introduction for what is to follow.

The alienating and isolating properties of technology plays a big part in Untogether, both as a means of creating the music and in part as a thematic thread. Moments of cold, sterile, mechanical sounds are softened by Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s voice. Her soft and sultry delivery, in particular on “In Two”, is the absolute yin to the minimalist musical patterns her partner Alexander Cowan showcases on “In Two II”. Blue Hawaii gets the balance exactly right on the ethereal experiment “Sierra Lift”, and the evocative pulsations of “Yours To Keep”. In a sense, it feels almost as if Standell-Preston and Cowan’s contributions are coming from opposite poles, meeting in unexpected and evocative ways.

While some of Blue Hawaii’s contemporaries found themselves bogged down by style and repetition, endlessly repeating beats and melodies, Untogether manages to take disparate elements and seamlessly blend it all into a series of undulating movements; waves crashing together and coming apart again, gathering momentum and dissipating just as quickly, all moving in concert in an ocean greater than the sum of its parts.

Jim Di Gioia

CoFounder at DOMINIONATED
Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
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