Heartland is an expansive concept album by Owen Pallett (formerly Final Fantasy) that tells the story of an ultra violent farmer named Lewis set to Pallett’s remarkable musical compositions. The protagonist in Pallett’s ambitious creation partakes in one sided dialogue with his creator in the imaginary world of Spectrum as the spirit of electronic music casts an orchestral panorama to the album (Pallett has string sections acting on the foundations of analogue synthesis). The result is Heartland, a vast scope of imagination and will.
“The Great Elsewhere” best encapsulates the idea of orchestral instrumentation acting on the constitutions of electronic music. Bleeps, glitches, and Pallett’s own looped quixotic croons are meshed together with a capricious, complex string arrangement that is challenging without harboring a sense of pretension. Pianos trills, snare rolls, laptop layers and deep cello strings bring the song to a powerful close.
Because of the dense concepts of Heartland’s electronically themed orchestral expansion it’s easy to become distracted from Pallett’s lyrical story of the violent farmer Lewis. Pallett’s narrative is best enunciated on the albums title track. “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!” manifest’s Lewis’ frustrations with his creator as he looks upon the vast lands he tends. Woodwinds, brushes on snare, and looped samples of strings combine with a traditional electronic bass to create the backdrop for Lewis’ protests to his ominous creator, “I will not sing you praises!” as the song winds to a close.
Heartland lives up to its long anticipated release. Pallett himself said that he “imagined putting so many notes on the page that the paper turned black.” Though there is plenty to get lost in, tracks like “Lewis Take Off His Shirt,” “Tryst With Mephistopheles” and the album’s opener “Midnight Directives” are strong creations that display Pallett’s talents not only as a composer but as a sensible song writer. True, the arrangements are lush and dense but Pallett, nevertheless, keeps a pop sensibility. The album has such welcoming hooks that it rebukes those labeling it as overly esoteric and difficult to digest.
The album isn’t without its hindrance. The track “Flare Gun” may test patience as its daintiness proves to be an obstacle rather than a benefit. In the end, Heartland is a beautifully crafted adventure that rarely veers into the depths of what some consider “too gay” for the average hetero . Otherwise, the album stands as an ambitious, stunning, detailed work of fiction and music that demands undaunted attention and praise.
by: Bene Garcia