Steve Hauschildt: Strands (Kranky, 2016)
Steve Hauschildt is an ambient, electronic artist hailing from Cleveland, Ohio and was a founding member of the band Emeralds (2006-2013). In his work, he utilizes synthesizers, computers, and digital processing to create soundscapes that both transforms established norms as well as redefine them. Since 2011, he has been releasing solo material primarily on the Kranky label. As in his prior work, Hauschildt wields analog technology within the space of masterful layers and soundscapes. Strands is a weaving of various melodies, tones, and textures into a careful and patient tapestry that unfolds over the course of each composition.
What one immediately notices about Hauschildt’s arrangements is that he is comfortable with space and silence. I do not mean that there are moments in the tracks where there is no sound but rather that Hauschildt is masterful at allowing the soundscape to breath and pulse without filling up all the space with layers. This aesthetic is instantly apparent on “Horizon of Appearances”. The sci-fi film is an immediate reference point for the beautiful hums and sparkles that flicker and pulse in and out of the speakers. The build is subtle, evolving, and fantastical, with a myriad of synths, slowly giving voice to a larger, creeping horizon. “Same River Twice” has a choral feel with synths dancing about. Deep thumps give another rhythmic tone to the tapestry, creating an almost hypnotic, meditative state in the listener. Hauschildt’s ability to make analog synths sound organic and warm is exquisite.
“A False Seeming” begins with a rush of slightly fuzzed out noise. There is a beautiful wall-of-sound effect here but it is effulgent and welcoming. The fullness of the track is breathtaking. “Ketracel” changes the tone a bit with laser-like sounds creating a cascade of rhythm over warm synths. The juxtaposition of the tonally warm and the harsher elements create a wonderful play on tone and texture as each is in conversation with one another. Eventually, the warm synths fade and the others dance freely until other fuzzy textures come into the mix and fill the spaces. “Time We Have” starts quiet and subtle. It slowly builds as synths play a brightly introspective melody. Eventually, fuzzed out static joins the mix to add an otherworldly texture.
“Strands”, the titular track that ties the general themes on the album together, is a mix of floating beats and understated textures. The melody is beautiful and hopeful, pulling together the sounds that surround it. There is an undulating sense of movement from fullness and wholeness to decay and what might be described as simple or, maybe, innocence. The patterns in the music move about, reforming into new modes and forms. “Transience of Earthly Joys” has a melancholic tone with synth voices giving the piece the quality of a burial dirge. Organ plays, flavoring the composition in that direction increasingly as the track proceeds. There is an eeriness here with a serving of longing. As the build comes, the organ becomes fuzzed out, almost as if to create a cry amid the somber melody. It’s a masterful composition that evokes, not only the transience of joy, but of life itself. “Die in Fascination” is the finale to Strands and it begins with warbling, swelling synths. There is a hopefulness underneath the rumbles as spacey synths soar and fade. As the swells die down, the piece fades and then silence. It’s the perfect ending to this magnificent album.
Hauschildt is a pioneer in electronic music and Strands proves that his facility with analog synths coupled with his ability to compose breathtaking pieces makes him a virtuoso of the craft. Strands is elegant, deceptively simple, and emotively deep. Hauschildt is a master craftsman of soundscapes and textures here, bringing his listener into an otherworldly realm of epic sonic storytelling. If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of Strands and enjoy the journey.
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