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Haptic, "The Medium"

It's dark outside, the windows are open, and the light in the room is slowly bleeding into the shapelessness outside. A trickle of sound pours out of the speakers and evokes a half-frightened reflex; it isn't clear whether something just moved outside the house or if Haptic just added a new element to their droning melancholy. In slow, measured steps, and with liquid ease, The Medium plays out like a subdued, but troubling soundtrack to an unreleased David Lynch film. It's filled with both tense uncertainty and cool atmospheres drowned in low-end heaviness.


Flingco Sound

Haptic - The Medium

Haptic's technique is simple and direct. They begin both sides of their debut LP on Flingco Sound with metallic, but somewhat indecipherable drones. After introducing this trembling, often uncertain base, Haptic slowly breathes a plethora of tiny details into their music. The sensation is, at first, a disorienting and troubling one. I mistook several sounds on the record for sounds occurring outside my window. As the sounds intensified, I began to wonder what kind of thing was lurking about just feet away from me. Sizzling fire, dragging feet, muffled voices, bouncing balls, the buzz of electricity, and the whir of motors all find a place for themselves on The Medium. These bits of noise, samples, and odd productions are arranged such that they form convincing and detailed narratives. Within minutes of firing up "One" a complete and almost intrusive scenario had formed in my mind. I could see a weary and worn character shuffling down my street with a drained look upon his face. I could see the cigarette in his hand and I could hear the thoughts crushing his brain into a single-minded state. As he stares off into space and as "One" proceeds to work its magic, all manner of details are added to this picture. The drones turn into buzzing lights and the minutiae produced by the band turn into streams of thoughts and uncollected fragments of ideas. The progression of both songs is like peering into the mind of someone fixated on some premise or memory. The point is that their music is strikingly cinematic and well-sequenced. Their arrangements are obviously thought out and carefully planned or their improv skills are of the highest order. Either way, both sides of this record have an odd and satisfying logic about them.

Most of the sounds employed by the band are organic. Haptic's instruments, whether they be cymbals or boxes filled with junk, are largely naked, so it is easy to believe that what sounds like a piece of burning paper is in fact just a piece of burning paper. I highly doubt this is the case, but such nudity amplifies the band's potency. Not only do they craft shifting and somewhat frightening soundscapes, they produce them with objects that anyone would recognize from their everyday lives. The mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar greatly increases the album's proximity to the listener and the extent to which it can produce emotional responses. The human or emotional component of the record is emphasized by a DVD that is included with the first 100 copies of the record. Amid a progression of shimmering surfaces, video artist Lisa Slodki projects a series of human faces. Her repetitive and hypnotic technique, combined with Haptic's ghostly soundtrack, both emphasizes Haptic's cinematic side and increases the dramatic elements already present in the music. The frozen, sometimes listless faces she focuses upon are frightening in and of themselves. All of them seem lost, alone, or completely without emotion, somehow swallowed by the images projected behind them or by the music that is the occasion of their presence. The only sign of happiness is one that is affected for show. Still, Haptic's music isn't simply doom and gloom. It exudes a kind of ease and directness that makes both songs float by rather quickly. The sounds of a manipulated xylophone and gentle bass pulses push the album along and, at some points, add a jazz-like feeling to the entire affair. The band never breaks character, thoug; their droning simplicity and monolithic approach holds the album together from beginning to end. This simplicity lends the band a cool, almost untouchable aura and ultimately turns all the creeping despair they produce into noir-ish calm.



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Review of the Day

lpd reissues: "the lovers" & "island of jewels"
'The Lovers' first appeared on LP in 1984, side one was recorded at a concert earlier that year while side two were all new tracks recorded live for VPRO Radio in Holland. When the CD was first manufactured in 1991, both tracks from the "Curious Guy" 12" single were included. While the disc is often not considered to be a truly bonafide LPD album, it contains some of my favorite LPD songs. The four songs from side one had only ever appeared on compilation cassettes (if anywhere else). The excitement about the band's current lineup can be observed simply by the volume of material that surfaced in that year (which included both 'The Tower' and 'Faces in the Fire') and here they wanted to treat the older tunes to a newer live arrangement. Side two starts and ends with the timeless emotional, violin and piano heavy classics "The Lovers" parts one and two. It also features the entertaining classic, "Flowers for the Silverman" right in the middle. The feverishly catchy "Curious Guy" is cute and always a crowd-pleaser and the disc ends appropriately with the complex 11½ minute opus "Premonition 16". Bonus bits for the new reissue include a restored cover (which includes all five faces through the flowers), printed lyrics and a thumbnail for the 'Curious Guy' 12" release inside the tray.


'Island of Jewels' on the other hand is one of my least favorite LPD albums. Recorded and released in 1986, it was the first full-length album recorded with Edward living in Holland and the rest of the group living in England. Incidentally, the album seems fragmented and unconnected, while the production seems rather sterile and thin. The band sounds like a group of musicians not paying attention to each other, all clamoring for attention without letting each other's instruments have a life of their own. It's somewhat painful to listen to as the songwriting really isn't bad at all. Songs like "The Shock of Contact" and "Jewel in the Crown" would probably have benefitted from a completely different recording approach. This reissue is probably one of my favorite improvements on the other hand. The back cover has been adopted from black and white images from inside the original gatefold LP issue, photos have been included as well as lyrics—none of which were on the original PIAS CD release.


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