A long time has passed since the release of Ian Hawgood‘s last album, and much has happened in the ensuing years. The artist moved to Japan just in time to be affected by the earthquake and radiation fallout, and then helped to raise funds for the victims. In the same year, he lost a loved one and endured a major injury. During this time, he also continued to curate the work of three labels while collaborating with friends on a few worthwhile projects. But where has Ian Hawgood been? What happened to the voice of Snow Roads, to the artist who way back in 2009 was just coming into his own?
Time and significant events change people, often for the worse but sometimes for the better. Some fold in the face of adversity. Some become embittered or resigned. Some show resilience, a stubborn determination to acknowledge loss while continuing to put one foot in front of the other. The Shattered Light does not sound like the Ian Hawgood we know. Only a tenuous connection binds this work to previous efforts. And yet, such a response is understandable. The artist’s light has been shattered, and the question of the aftermath is, “Will refraction bind the broken pieces?” From the look of the cover, the answer is yes. A lone building, perhaps a church, stands resolute against a desolate backdrop. One might call the photograph lonely, or one might call it constant. One’s reaction to the cover shot will reveal much about the nature of one’s own spirituality, one’s own response to hardship and stress. To some people, the word shattered means gone; to others, it may mean salvageable. How much has Hawgood been able to salvage? Has he been able to build upon the fractured foundation? The Shattered Light is forlorn, and seems always on the brink of fading, but on the other hand, it’s also here, new, completed. Sometimes the way forward is not to put the past behind, but to incorporate it, which is exactly what Hawgood has done here. Pain is all over this recording, but so is perseverance.
The tracks are long, the three most extended clocking in at 11, 13 and 20 minutes. Each icy drone takes a while to unfold, offering dynamic contrast, but falling short of cacophony. The rising and falling layers sound shattered, thanks to distortion and delay. They imitate the cloud of the troubled mind, the melancholic fugue that prevents one from thinking clearly. Only in the closing minutes does the light begin to filter through again like droplets returning to a stream. Hawgood launched the Koen Music label as a platform for music too personal to release elsewhere, but while The Shattered Light may be intensely personal, it is also intensely relatable; any listener whose source of light (health, love, security, faith) has even been shattered will find this reflection familiar. A burden shared is a burden lessened, and Hawgood is strong enough to carry the weight. (Richard Allen)
Release date: July 13