Share feature-length video for “Yr Wives”
New album Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure
out now via Wichita Recordings
Chicago’s Health&Beauty have shared an epic feature-length video for ‘Yr Wives’, the latest single from their new album Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure, out now on Wichita Recordings.
Presented over 2 hours and 13 minutes, the long form piece, shot by Tim Breen and visually processed by Nick Ciontea, captures the band on a ritualistic journey into the outer woods and caves of rural Illinois, as the meandering resonance of the track’s woven guitar parts, cyclical drumming and sweetly layered harmonies gently dissolve into a 120 minute long vocal chant between Brian J Sulpizio and Maria Jacobson.
Brian says of the video… “Ever since I had that “minaressi / no me va, no me va” part I’ve imagined it going forever. Making the video was a good chance to try that out. I’d done a long drone or two before but never with my voice, and Maria was in the same boat. We talked about it afterward and had similar experiences: after about 10 minutes we thought we’d have to stop, but we powered through and by the end we could have done it forever. It’s amazing how your body adjusts to a demand like this. I spent a lot of time changing how my mouth was shaped to relieve certain muscles in favour of others. I would look at Maria periodically and she would have her arms straight up in the air or out to the side, always moving around and stretching. I was playing guitar also so couldn’t do that but found little ways to alter my posture in between phrases.
There is such a vast difference between an instrumental drone or loop and a vocal thing like this… A choir would be one thing, but two close-mic’ed voices… I wonder what peoples’ experiences will be, for those who take the time to go all the way through it.”
His co-chanter Maria Jacobson talks about her experience saying… “I tried to be a good and correct singer at the beginning, then I would zone out and realize that I was still somehow singing, then my butt really hurt, then I would give up on trying to do good mic technique or even sound good, and then at the end there was a surge of energy and me and Brian really synced up tonally and emotionally which turned into a tired and strong a capella chant.”
About Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure
A good chunk of the beautifully scorching new album Shame Engine / Blood Pressure was cut right after a quartet version of the group—with Brian J Sulpizio joined by guitarist Jake Acosta, drummer Seth Vanek, and bassist Bill Satek—had finished an intensive three-week tour at the end of 2017. The new album conveys a directness and power that seems to stem from the band’s live performances, whether the harrowing, droning blues of the opener “Saturday Night” or the soulful Irish-tinged folk-rock of “Recourse.” In reality, Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure is simply the latest chapter in an evolving tome, but it’s absolutely the most gripping and satisfying instalment in that process yet.
Over time many musicians have collaborated with Sulpizio—some in short bursts, others, like keyboardist Ben Boye and drummer Frank Rosaly, over the long haul—and the new record includes some fresh faces. Sulpizio is that rare beast with a keen ear for detail—no doubt a byproduct of his frequent work as an engineer and producer for some of Chicago’s most beloved bands—as well as an abiding love for the spontaneity and heated interaction of live gigs.
His epic improvisational abilities have been a constant in the bands led by Ryley Walker—where the guitarist cemented his bonds with both Boye and Rosaly— but he’s always focused on serving the band rather than grandstanding. Even within Health&Beauty he frequently cedes lead guitar duties to others: check out Acosta’s post-Eddie Hazel fantasias on “Saturday Night.”
Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure, like its predecessors, is undeniably the product of his fertile mind, but it wouldn’t sound the way it does without the input and ideas of his collaborators. “We all have too much to gain by working with as many people as makes musical sense to us, and I really enjoy having Health&Beauty records run a wide musical gamut,” explains Sulpizio of the peripatetic line-ups of the band over time.
“The music of Health&Beauty is the sound of love and fear oscillating through us,” he says, and, indeed, these riveting new songs express the full gamut of human emotions, toggling between extremes, but given ballast by the rich musical center conjured by the arrangements and performances. “I’m still looking for things that sound ‘weird’ to me; looking to be changed by something. So there’s a lot more letting things be what they are on this record: a lot more audible exploration.”
Sulpizio’s inner-producer couldn’t help but add gorgeous touches to certain songs, whether the sparkling viola solo Whitney Johnson (Matchesse) contributes to “Recourse,” or the plangent horn charts that inject an elegant, calming presence to songs like “Rat Shack” and “Bottom Leaves.”
Theo Karon and Sulpizio mixed the album in Los Angeles–where Boye added his keyboard parts–resulting in both the biggest-sounding record Health&Beauty has ever made, and also its most translucent. Yet the most dramatic leap on Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure may well be Sulpizio’s singing. Depending on the requirements of a given song he modulates his delivery to be sweetly empathic (“Love Can Be Kind”) unctuously unreliable (“Yr Wives”), or struggling with uncertainty (“Clown”). His phrasing consistently adds new wrinkles to already handsome melodies while imparting emotional quivers, both positive and negative.
Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure stands as one of the great rock albums to emerge from Chicago this decade, its ambition quietly enfolded into the seamless, sophisticated execution. Whether flanked by some of the scene’s most talented musicians, or armed simply with his own guitar, Sulpizio has learned to share, comfort, and communicate his thoughts, both dark and light, in a way that resonates within us.
1. Saturday Night
2. Yr Wives
3. Rat Shack
6. Bottom Leaves
8. Escaping Error
10. Love Can Be Kind