Haptic, "Weird Undying Annihilation"
Recordings of sound art installations are always a bit troublesome, since it is an attempt to distill a spatial experience into a (usually) two channel stereo recording, meaning something is lost in translation. The latest work from the trio of Steven Hess, Joseph Clayton Mills, and Adam Sonderberg combines the intent and structure of an installation, but in the form of a live performance where each performer performed within their own specific space, and specifically intended for an external listening experience. While that may sound convoluted, it results in a tape that features an amazing sense of space and movement, even if it is just a recording.
The spatial element of this material is undeniable from the opening moments of "Some Gravity." The trio cover subtle electronic tones with churning static and deep blasts of three-dimensional sound. It is extremely active, complex, and challenging without being harsh or oppressive. The use of droning tonal elements on "BTWN 65, 52" beautifully contrasts the reversed stutters and fragments that are all covered by what sounds like the deep rumble of a passing train.
The trio leans heavier into rhythmic elements on the other side of the cassette, albeit in the most abstracted form possible. "Lost My Shape" is a multilayered noise experience that is distinctly anchored by clicks, thumps, and dull thuds that certainly sound percussive in nature, but hardly resemble anything close to a drum. The final piece, "Surrogates" has the ambience of being within a large idling machine, complete with external banging and clattering, but a subtle piano motif stays prominent throughout, providing an excellent contrast.
Pandemic recordings are a concept that is already becoming clich√©, but Haptic (intentionally or not) have created a perfect one with Weird Undying Annihilation. By so deftly capturing the experience of both live recordings and dynamic sound installations into a format that can be fully appreciated in complete isolation. It is an excellent substitute while standing completely on its own strengths, and never just seeming like a "best approximation" of the live, spatial context. The depth and complexity of these recordings is astounding, and the trio do an unbelievable job of capturing both place and motion in only two channels of sound.
Samples can be found here.