Herra Terra, l-r, Gregg Kusumah-Atmadja, Shawn Pelkey, John Tonelli, and Adrian Bettencourt Andrade (Photo by Molly McGrath)
The first few times I listened to "Hyperborean," the new 6-song E.P. by Herra Terra, I thought, "Well this is pleasant."
Singer John Tonelli's voice floated along, sometimes percolating into falsetto, as his band mates bathed the basics of guitar, bass and drums in electronic suds. Everything sounded clean and light, all trippy and danceable.
Then I started listening more closely to the lyrics. Deceit, despair, and desperation permeate these songs. The lead-off track "Portals" is actually sort of sweet. But things go downhill quickly as the realities of growing up sink in.
In "Burying Youth," Herra Terra feels the ground shifting but isn't quite sure what it means. The music turns darkest on "DeadEnds" and a cynicism seeps into the mix.
In the balance, the Boston-by-way-of-Worcester band finds some of the tumult liberating. On "Reason to Lose it," Herra Terra offers up "the big empty end" as an excuse to anyone just wanting bust loose. And in tackling the malaise summoned in the title track, Tonelli shoots a bolt of optimism with the line, "Keep filling it with rhythm and sound."
So to those who think all dance music is vacuous, and to those who think it takes volume and aggression to rail, Herra Terra will set you straight.
The band is part of this year's Rock and Roll Rumble (http://wzlx.cbslocal.com/category/rock-and-roll-rumble/), playing April 8, night two of the preliminary round, at TT the Bear's in Cambridge.
The band also cooked up a pretty vibrant video for "Reason to Lose it" with producer Torey Champagne. Check it out
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