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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

american music club, "love songs for patriots"
American Music Club triumphantly return after ten years of absence. For anybody not in-the-know, AMC is much more than Mark Eitzel's piercing lyrics and bleeding vocals: it's Vudi's chaotic guitar, Danny Pearson's three-string bass and simultaneous percussive playing acrobatics, Tim Mooney's shuffling rhtyhms, and Bruce Kaphan's pedal steel and piano (replaced this time around with lap steel by Vudi and piano by new member Marc Capelle). While Eitzel has recorded and performed solo for the last ten years, the perfectly paired sounds of the group with his voice—the disorder, discomfort, and awe-inspiring beauty—has been sadly missed. These are sounds of a group which has been such a large influence to so criminally few people. With 1991's Everclear, AMC perhaps recorded their first perfect album, flawless and intense, (conincidentally released at the time I discovered hard liquor!). They upped the stakes with 1993's Mercury, a bold album of their brand of slow yet raw tunes where the group experimented with new ways of composing and recording, all of which fit into a perfect mix. Of course, for their Warner Bros. bosses, it wasn't enough, and I'm sure the pressure was on for them to have a "hit single." 1994's San Francisco was probably their most sonically digestible album, primed for pop radio, but it didn't feel like everybody was quite on board. In retrospect, it's no surprise Eitzel was probably frustrated, called it a day, fired everybody, and went solo. Love Songs for Patriots opens with Eitzel's voice front stage center, with the familiar sound of AMC's past blasting through like an unstoppable train that's exploded in a tunnel as the smoke and fire move through, ready to come out the other end, faster and hotter. The gentle songs like "Another Morning," "Love Is," and especially "Myopic Books" are excellent breathers: sweet, gentle, sandwiched in between the rough and loud songs, and echo fan favorites like "Last Harbor" and "Jenny." Content-wise, Eitzel's lyrics are as brilliant as they have ever been, with new stories about love and god, almost entirely void of rhyme scheme, and requiring intense group therapy for any listener who's actually paying attention. It's for his lyrics alone that make AMC and Eitzel a terrible band to listen to in the car, as a driver needs to be paying attention to the road, not the male stripper with underwear full of George Washingtons, the star of the brilliant tune "Patriot's Heart," or Mark's mom who likes Manhattans, which he says "taste like mouthwash." (Even Kathleen makes her way onto this record!) Like Coil once were encouraging "deep listening" to delicately layered instrumental music, American Music Club is "deep listening" for lyrical content, super soaked in emotion with obscure references to reitred pop icons, the bible, and idealized Americana. Eitzel is equal parts drama and comedy and only with AMC do I feel he's truly meeting his match at the same time, all the time. I look forward to their upcoming tour and hope this isn't just a one-off reunion, as AMC is one of the most influential bands to my own musical taste evolution and maturation. 


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