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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

Nina Nastasia, "Run To Ruin"
Touch and Go
These songs make me into another person. I'm a criminal, then a scared little boy, and the next minute I'm the loner walking through the desert with a storm at my back. Nina Nastasia forces me to assume these roles with her voice in my ear and her guitars cutting down at me like vicious slaps. One minute I'm in quiet solitude, hiding in a thicket and the next I'm being whipped around by a squall bursting with lightning and unexhaustable power. Run to Ruin is just that: powerful and excited. Nastasia's voice is absolutely entrancing and the instrumentation is a fluid swarm of acoustic strumming, near-classical arrangements, and cabaret-styled, instrumental passages. "We Never Talked" starts the album as the perfect preface. Nastasia's lyrics are somewhat vague and manage to evoke a sense of wonder and mystery in every song, but especially on the opener. "In the car, you'd have brought it up / But I went on about that job / All the love I have left you won't know / All the fear I have left you won't know." The way it's sung puts a knot in my stomach every time... and then the storm begins. "I Say That I Will Go" is a story about keeping a promise. It has a deliciously twisted ending that suggests all sorts of mischievousness. Violins, cellos, banjo, dulcimer, piano, and some distinctive drumming from Jim White of Dirty Three drift, collide, and wail with Nastasia's excellent story-telling and clear, graceful, and at times absolutely earth-shattering voice. Though the album runs at just over thirty minutes long, each song is full of character and developed completely. There's more variety on Run to Ruin than on most albums that last twice as long. "The Body" begins like an imitation-baroque piece and "On Teasing" sounds like a tale told by gypsies around camp fire; it features an instrumental duel that sounds as if it comes from the spirit world. "You Her and Me" creates a hybrid sound that holds country and folk music dear to the heart but is much more bare and delicate. Despite all the acoustic and familiar instruments used, this is a unique album with a myriad of styles and alien melodies. Every time I play this record, it's like being transported to another world. Not one song is disposable and after the album stops, I have this incredible urge to play it again just so I can drift away.

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