- by Sean Hewson Rating:9 Release Date:2016-10-28 Label: Kranky
Strands, the fourth album on Kranky by Steve Hauschildt, is a song cycle. As this is an awesome album and one in which a little background knowledge greatly aids appreciation, let's give a little space to an explanation of what Hauschildt has set out to achieve. Strands is centred around the theme of cosmogony and creation and destruction myths. Nature and the environment also influenced the album, with Hauschildt taking inspiration from the movement of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland where he lives. Hauschildt says that he "wanted to try and capture that moment in nature and society where life slowly reemerges through desolation, so it has a layer of optimism looming underneath.”
It is a vast under-taking - essentially all of life and death and life - but one that Steve Hauschildt is equal to. Horizon of Appearances comes in with great, Ambient, swelling synths, like the movements of a great river or ocean at night. There are high tinkling sounds and low, slow sounds; almost like the processed, disintegrating string loops of William Basinski but with the clean, crisp sounds of the Berlin School. It builds subtly and then slowly disappears. Same River Twice is quicker, with arpeggiated synths and human voice pads. There is a touch of Steve Roach about A False Seeming with huge synth sounds and high, medium and low tones that are layered and drift in and out. Ketracel is more percussive, the rhythm sounding like it is coming from synth sounds rather than a drum machine. The sound is quite light and bubbly, but there is a slightly distorted presence, like something frying in a pan. A more Ambient sound returns on Time We Have which builds and has quite an emotional chord progression. Again, a distorted sound slowly comes over like a storm moving in and then moving on. Strands is more gentle with pretty, arpeggiated synths and pleasant chords. It has the bittersweet feeling of looking out of a window on a rainy day. There is a Max Richter feeling to Transience of Earthly Joys with the introduction of some minimal piano. It's a little foreboding and a bit wistful, as the title suggests. But, ultimately, it's beautiful - you can love the joy and the transience. Again, a distorted sound comes in towards the end reminding us this is not a New Age approach to nature, this is an acceptance and appreciation of its harsh side as well. Strands comes to an end with Die in Fascination, which is a great title and one that would have made a fitting epitaph for David Bowie. The chords are beautiful and almost feel triumphant, like something from Brian Eno's Apollo album.
Strands is a gorgeous album. It's full and rich like a good dinner or a great painting. The slow songs wrap your head in bandages, the quicker ones crackle in your ears. Hauschildt's gift is the ability to place sounds in a song and in a mix in such a way as to excite the ears and the emotions. Using electronic sounds to emulate nature is not always going to be an easy fit but stick the headphones on and close your eyes and you'll find that this is a highly evocative album.
I listened to this one yesterday...Your review is spot on!