Hello friends and welcome to the chilliest What’s On Tap? in recent memory. Here in the barren wastes between the midwest and east coast of the United States, we have gone from an unseasonably warm weekend to ‘holy crap I forgot how much cold hurts’ literally overnight. But never fear, this month’s tunes are guaranteed to set fire to your speakers while the beer style is sure to warm the heart of even the coldest Grinch.
This month I have the pleasure of reviewing ‘Run From Reality’, the latest release from Hide Your Tigers on the Pterodactyl Squad netlabel. Las Vegas chip musician Cheyne Shirley is the mastermind behind this project, as well as being one half of the duo Decaying Tigers. This album is loaded from start to finish with dance/trance/EDM bangers, and Cheyne’s weapons of mass construction are a pile of Game Boys running LSDJ. Each track has layers upon layers of bass, with just enough room in the spectrum for percussion, backing pads, and the occasional melody. The album is an easy, lighthearted, and happy listen. ‘Run From Reality’
might be is best summarized by the following 15-second ad in the style of a stereotypical commercial voiceover:
Hate the cold? Seasonal Affective Disorder got ya down? Cure the holiday blues by treating yourself to some bangin’ dance tunes from Hide Your Tigers!
Opening with long tones on an aggressive wave channel patch, ‘Artifacts’ both sets the tone for the album and has elements that stand out among the rest of the tracks after a complete listening. Notice that the bass is always in the front of the mix with the loudness of the notched wave shape, but spends a large amount of the alloted 3:29 not playing active lines. There is one section full of bouncy, rhythmic bass, but this track manages to simultaneously feature the bass without making it the most active element in the mix.
‘Green Flash’ opens with pounding percussion and pads that give the aural illusion of pulsing side chain with some clever volume swells. This is one of the more melodic tracks on the album, with a frenetic, plucky lead bouncing around the stereo field. Finally, another element that adds a little bit of unique sparkle to the album is the occasional voice samples from the wave channel. These short clips are used very tastefully throughout the album and are a nice addition here in ‘Green Flash’.
Get those nostaligia feels ready, because the aggressive bass is back in a big way in ‘Migration’, sounding like a vintage Sega beat-em-up soundtrack. I love the amount of layers and variation that occurs as this track progresses, and the second section that begins at 2:01 flows perfectly. There are several nice pitch bend moments on the album, usually as transitions or closing sweeps; I would love to hear more pitch bend and vibrato used throughout the album. All of these tunes sound great, but these little embellishments not only add a bit of humanization, but the right bit of portamento/vibrato at the end of a melodic line can really elevate an idea from good to great.
‘Switch’ opens with steady percussion and syncopated bass, a texture which we haven’t heard in any extended amount of time. There are some great echoes in this track, and Hide Your Tigers again convincingly apes sidechaining by leaving out the bass hits that occur directly on the beat. This track is the most organic of the album in terms of how the music slowly evolves, beginning with the initial ideas that smoothly blend into other sections before returning to a variation on the original texture. There’s also a cheeky ‘Damn!’ sample hidden near the end which probably helps place ‘Switch’ as my favorite track on the album.
Combining the textures from the previous track and ‘Green Flash’, the driving energy of ‘Pleasant Travels’ fits very well within the natural flow of this album from start to finish. All of these tracks are unique when taken as individual pieces, but the album has a seamless quality that makes for great driving/study music. Long bass tones from the opening track make a brief return here, as do the pulse pads from ‘Green Flash’. If I had to point to one track to take out of context that represents ‘Run From Reality’ it would undoubtedly be this one.
Closing out the album is ‘The Calling’, a surprisingly relaxed track that has a lo-fi buzz that continues the warm theme of this review. There is a lot going on in the texture here, from percussion and pads to snippets of layered melodic patches. The thumping bass does get its moment to shine here as the track gradually gets more aggressive, with several clever layers of wave/pulse channel to really fatten up the sound. If the previous track ‘Pleasant Travels’ was the overture to the album containing most of its themes, ‘The Calling’ is a fitting coda, closing out a fun album with interesting musical textures and ideas to be explored in the future.
‘Run From Reality’ is an EP filled with energetic, positive music that flows effortlessly from beginning to end. Hide Your Tigers brings several stylistic elements to each track – layered bass patches, interesting textures, and tasteful LSDJ voice samples – to create tunes that stand out in a wide sea of danceable chip music. In similar fashion to the beer pairing this month, these individual musical elements are like different spices that create a pleasing flavor of sound for the ears.
Featured Beer Style Pairing: Winter Warmer / Christmas Ale
History: Tracing the roots of the modern winter warmer style is not a clear and easy task, and the name itself does little to clarify much about the brew. Prior to the discovery of the wonderful flavor, bitterness, and aroma that hops bring to a brew day, English brewers used a variety of cooking spices to flavor their beers. The gruit style is a beer flavored not with hops but these herbs and roots, and a similar style using Christmastime spices such as nutmeg, allspice, and cloves is the wassail. Winter warmers also draw some inspiration from the English Strong Ale with its elevated alcohol content and emphasis on hop flavors.
Recommendations: That history is clear as a pint o’ Guinness, right? Not exactly… American brewers may slap the winter warmer label on any fall beer that contains some spices other than straight hops, even going so far as the labeling monstrosity ‘Pumpkin/yam winter warmer’. In general, what you can expect to find from the modern winter warmer is an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 5.5-8.5%, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves), and a wild variety of hop aromas and bitterness. Given their higher alcohol content and spiced nature, winter warmers are often barrel aged in a variety of different woods and spirit barrels. These beers tend to pair well with traditional holiday meal staples of turkey, ham, duck, and hearty sides of mashed potatoes and stuffing. Before we get to my list of beers to seek out, the standard disclaimer applies: in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I am an employee of Great Lakes Brewing Company and these views are entirely my own. They should not be interpreted as an endorsement by GLBC.
Anchor Brewing Co. ‘Anchor Christmas Ale’
Anderson Valley ‘Winter Solstice’
Breckenridge ‘Christmas Ale’
Samuel Adams ‘Old Fezziwig’ – found only in the winter variety
Sweetwater Brewing Company ‘Sweetwater Festive Ale’
Boulevard Brewing (MO) ‘Nutcracker Ale’
Dark Horse Brewing Company (MI) ‘Dark Horse 4 Elf’
Fremont Brewing Company (WA) ‘Bonfire Ale’
Great Lakes Brewing Company (OH) ‘Christmas Ale’
Hangar 24 (CA) ‘Winter Warmer’
Harpoon (MA) ‘Winter Warmer’
Odell Brewing Co. (CO) ‘Isolation Ale’
Peticolas (TX) ‘Wintervention’
Thirsty Dog (OH) ’12 Dogs of Christmas’ – perennial favorite and friendly rival to Great Lakes for ‘best Christmas Ale’
Troegs (PA) ‘Mad Elf’ – A big booty 11% Belgian strong ale with cherries and spices
Thank you again for joining me for ‘What’s On Tap?’ and I hope you enjoy both the music and the beer! Please remember two very important things – support musical artists and always drink responsibly. Cheers!
Hide Your Tigers: