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This Record Makes Me Dance Hard! HOUSES OF HEAVEN ‘Within​/​Without’ Track by Track

If you don’t know, you will know that Oakland is a small city with a major impact on the world! I can say this because I know my history, and for part of my life, I lived in this city. One word that comes to mind when I think of this place is REVOLUTION. This is why I’m not surprised by how Oakland’s House of Heaven is pushing their music to new heights. Their new album Within​/​Without comes out on April 26th via Felte Records. The band has blessed us with a track-by-track breakdown of their new record that will give you insight into their Cold Wave Industrial EBM MAGIC!

01. Strange Temptation

From the early stages of the album, we knew this would be the opening track. The intro is very cinematic, creating the setting for the rest of the album to live in.  A central theme running through this track, and the entire album, is the blending of the new and modern with the comfort of the familiar. The percussion is an eclectic mix, blending the sounds of modular synths with the organic tones of live shakers and tambourines. The track oscillates between the deep, warm Moog bass and the icy notes of FM synths. There are so many sounds and rhythms that I always find something new to focus on with each listen.  it delves into the feeling of being confined by love and a relentless yearning for something elusive, a perpetual sense of incompleteness. I think some people are forever seekers, in pursuit of some missing piece. Whether it’s the pursuit of pleasure and substances, the solace of faith, or the yearning for connection with others. Adam watches a lot of sci-fi and during a scene from some film there was the sound effect of a ship flying across the screen. He tried to recreate it on the modular synth and everything else was built around that. There’s also a vocal sample throughout the track which is Speak and Spell pronouncing an “A” being tweaked through a pitch shifting unit.

02. Within/Without

The title “Within/Without” was sparked by a quote from Thatcher, in which she describes being at war with the enemy without in the Falklands and the enemy within in her own county. Even though she is an awful person, the quote still resonated with me. How we’re each fighting both within and outside of ourselves, constantly at war on two fronts. The song focuses on the frustration and regret of making the wrong choices in life. Of the visceral desire to burn everything down and start anew. Staring at a world of endless choices, only to watch them slip away. It’s one of our favorite songs to play live at the moment. Most of the keyboard lines are very atonal and metallic yet still manage to stick in your head.

03. The End of Me (feat. Douglas McCarthy)

This is kind of a strange song musically, blending together elements like tablas, a keyboard that mimics the sound of a Mizmar, metallic clanking sounds, and live drums. Initially, when it came to vocals, I was a bit stumped, and in the early demos I was just yelling in a very monotone fashion. Our producer Matia had the idea to reach out to Douglas McCarthy and see if he’d be up for singing on the track. We’re all huge fans of Nitzer Ebb, so we were pretty much in disbelief that he was into doing it. To our amazement, Douglas not only liked the track but also had vocals and lyrics ready within a week. When he stepped into the studio, we had no idea what to expect. Matia set up the mic and we sat there, equally nervous and excited.  When Douglas started singing, we were simply blown away. He added a power and melodicism that just wasn’t there originally. It completely changed the track for the better and all of sudden there was a chorus and it felt like a real song.

04. New Decay

The lyrics delve into a complex mix of emotions regarding a fear of an uncertain future while also being bored and tired of the past. It’s about that desire to set ablaze the old and familiar, making room for something entirely new to emerge. It might sound contradictory, but that’s the way we often process our feelings. Swinging back and forth, embracing change while clinging to the familiar. In a world where technology evolves at a breakneck pace, the song touches on the anxiety that comes with this constant flux. We’re always questioning the role of technology, how quickly it changes our lives, and yet other aspects can feel outdated and disconnected. There’s this tension between the potential for technology to be a force for good, even lifesaving, and the fear of its misuse, leading to irreversible harm. Living in this precarious balance is a very anxious place to be. I read a book called “The Coming Wave,” which delves into how each new technological leap could hold the power to either propel civilization forward or become its undoing. And it’s only through sheer luck that we’ve managed to survive this long. Musically, “New Decay” is a nod to XTRMNTR era Primal Scream. There’s a big rock element from Rachel’s drumming but so many electronic sounds moving across the stereo field that it brings it to a different place. Kind of a futuristic rock and roll track. 

05. The Depths You Hold

This was the last song written for the album and the only one written partly in the studio. We felt we needed something with a slower tempo to break up the album. It started with Adam’s ethereal keyboard pads and opening arpeggio line. Matia and I then worked out the main drum and bass groove over it. At first I thought it sounded too pristine and pretty so I ran the keyboard lines through guitar pedals to create that shoegaze MBV bending effect. There’s also a lot of textural noise going on in the background to make it feel unsettling. If you listen closely, you’ll catch the sound of rain at the end. It’s supposed to suggest a sense of place. When I hear it, it makes me feel like I’m alone with my thoughts in the middle of the night. For me, this song is a journey into the heart of a destructive relationship, where the allure of the other person’s darkness is irresistible. It’s about that intense longing to be with someone, even when you know they’re leading you down a path of despair and addiction. There’s a quote by Bukowski, about how drinking is like killing yourself every night only to be reborn each morning. There’s a haunting truth in that, a constant cycle of falling and rising again. This song captures that paradoxical yearning to follow someone into the depths of their darkness, even when it means losing yourself in the process.

HOUSE of HEAVEN “Within​/​Without”

06. Flesh Techniques

Human connection and intimacy are a recurring lyrical theme on the album and this song is a good example of that. There’s a peculiar paradox we often find ourselves in, how it can sometimes be easier to open up to a stranger than to those closest to us. The deep-seated yearning for meaningful connections, but without true vulnerability or consequences. That’s why trauma bonding is so powerful, we can quickly make intense connections and it can feel like a drug. The song started off from one of Adam’s modular jams. From there, it was a question of translating that into a more structured band format. We experimented with various basslines and created more of a pop arrangement. The addition of Rachel’s live drumming and the 12 string guitar brought in some humanity as well. Once again, playing with the juxtaposition of cold, electronic textures against the imperfections of the human touch. 

07. Deserve (feat. Ms.Boan Mariana Saldaña)

“Deserve” marks a sonic departure for us, venturing into a more pop or Italio territory. Initially, I wasn’t sure if my voice would quite suit the vibe and it seemed to call for a female voice to truly bring it to life. We reached out to Mariana, as we’ve loved her work with BOAN, Medio Mutante, and Boy Harsher. We handed her the title “Deserve” and asked her to run with the theme. She created a haunting, Mexican-inspired ballad of lost love which worked beautifully with the melancholic melodies. The line “You don’t deserve love, if you don’t deserve my love” feels so universal, tapping into the timeless theme of heartbreak and resilience. For me, who tends to veer towards more abstract lyricism, witnessing Mariana’s ability to convey such raw emotion with clarity was truly inspiring. It’s a reminder of the power of straightforward, honest storytelling. The process of creating the music video alongside her was also exciting. The moment we saw her on screen with a latex hood and a wide-brimmed hat, we knew we were in for something visually stunning.

08. Pisces

The band name Houses of Heaven is a reference to the 12 astrological houses. As a Pisces, I often find myself submerged in my own world, struggling to resurface and connect with other people.  The chorus borrows from one of my mom’s old occult books and is meant to be inscribed into talisman to bring good fortune. Growing up she was into Wicca and other occult practices so a lot of that seeps into my lyrics. It feels like a mantra to pull myself out of the depths. As a water sign, the song brims with imagery of fluidity, mirroring the duality of the two fish in the Pisces symbol. The song itself went through the most changes of any song on the album. It was originally much faster and sounded closer to an IDM track. Matia ended up slowing it down manually on an old ¼” tape machine which created a wonderful groove. I then added the strings and hi-hat which was inspired by “West End Girls” oddly enough. The vocals and lyrics came pretty quickly after the new vibe of the track. Adam ran them through a modular unit called Morphagene to chop them up. Some of the things that sound like harmonies or backing vocals are actually the cut up and manipulated vocals. The keyboard sequence at the end is my favorite part and I’m alway waiting for it to kick in. 

09. Serpent Coil

This is the darkest song on the album lyrically and is about everything falling apart around you and feeling helpless to stop it. I was reluctant to include it on the album as it was a little too emotionally heavy compared to most of the other tracks but everyone else wanted to keep it so I was outvoted. It actually started from a demo during the ‘Silent Places’ sessions and went through several changes before getting to the final version. The keyboard lead line feels like an old John Carpenter movie which is a great juxtaposition with Rachel’s tribal drumming. 

10. Sightline

‘Sightline’ is a nod to drum & bass through the lens of post-punk. The breaks and live drums were resampled, cut up and resequenced on an MPC 2000XL because we loved the movement it created. Lyrically the song has only a few repeated lines inspired by the energy of drum & bass MCs. Guitar wise, the first half of the song Adam was trying to think of the most “wrong but right” guitar chord to play over the bassline.

Written By

COFFINS
Sentient 51423

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