Michael Hix - Pneuma

by Jason Atkinson Rating:7 Release Date:2017-06-23

Michael Hix was born in Tennessee, and now he lives in Brooklyn. Before he left the venerable state of agriculture and commerce, he procured a degree in theology from Vanderbilt. He might have even considered sticking around The Volunteer State, maybe doing some social service type stuff or fund-raising for non-profit organisations. But, no. Instead, he decamped to Greenpoint, bought some computer equipment, possibly a vintage synthesizer or two, and called himself a composer. His latest release “Pneuma,” out soon via streaming and limited edition cassette, is his latest testament.

This is an atmospheric work. On the whole, it is thematically unified. The ideas here are simple, minimalistic—often only a texture and heavy bass. Shades of vintage synth, maybe a Prophet 5 or some such—maybe just an emulator. I can’t tell the difference in this age of Roland 808 drum machines on my smartphone.  

“Pneuma” sounds a lot like the Phillip Glass’ opera “Einstein on the Beach,” but it also nods to groups like Tangerine Dream and Vermont. Things kick off with the digital noise of “Annunciation,” which features big pad sounds and arpeggiators. “Vico,” too, features arpeggiators, also employing filters and other simple effects. Things continue in this vein with “Mysterium” using a steel pan sound and “Isra” featuring more of a pan flute. The album wraps up with “Mirage,” the most atmospheric of all tracks. 

In his bio, Hix says he likes to “build dynamic structures that evolve over time, delving into the human condition and the metaphysical dimension.” I found one video of him playing his keyboards in a church. A film was being displayed, on it a young woman’s face. For some reason the rose window, or Catherine window behind him, obscured her face. Her body, yes. Her face: just a large circular window of stained glass. Michael Hix stood below all this, presiding over it like some kind of post-modern priest. He played his keyboards, which may or may not have been vintage, and tried to justify his existence.  

Have a listen.  

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