Steve Haley’s Heat Vision is a group effort and a pure example of the confluence of camaraderie and musicianship. Part musical ode to the confabulations of apocalyptic fantasy, to the portent of dreams and to wild imagination, it reads like a bittersweet map of friendship, loss and the end of the world. Assembled from the parts of a small and vibrant music scene, in many senses the album is also an ode to place and space. It becomes easy to picture how the marshlands and mudflats of Sackville N.B., whose unbroken and foggy symmetries impart both a surreal sense of isolation and togetherness and of centrality and terminus could have helped to inspire the morphing and hypnagogic lyrics that flow through Heat Vision like a waking dream.
However, it is not just the words that speak of place. The roster of musicians is an ensemble of local talents; the cover art was created by comic artist Patrick Allaby and the liner sleeve by painter Jon Claytor. The album itself was produced and performed in a series of venues, not limited to the university radio station, a bowling alley that moonlights as a concert stage and a shared jam space, lovingly referred to as “the shed.”
Although, justly so, it is Steve’s name on the cover, Heat Vision is equally an effort crafted by community. This is palpable while listening to the record as it moves from moments of sadness and solemnity to condensed and raw breaks of post-rock intensity, genre weaving as if it was second nature. And it very well may be just that for contributing musicians Jon Mckiel, Scott Brown, James Anderson and Luke Patterson, all of whom have been involved with other musical outings, running the gamut from death metal to punk to post-rock, folk and more.
‘Interdimensional Eye for an Eye’ moves from a heady electric-folk to grinding distortion and droning guitar evocations. ‘Bowling Lanes,’ perhaps a tip-off to the aforementioned bowling alley/concert stage, moves forward in a jangling, asymmetric crescendo.
Haley’s vocals are homey and affecting, like a Neil Young with a sweet-spot for subdued melody. They bring you in and occupy the spaces of sentiment and memory with an earnestness and directness that is impossible to affect. Heat Vision is not just a humbly and subtly crafted folk album; it is also a transforming and hallucinatory vision.