‘The sound that is somehow both retro and futuristic’, wrote ACL colleague James in a recent review. He was describing the synthesizer, so the line is pertinent also to Where All Is Fled, the latest solo outing of Steve Hauschildt. As a renowned constructor of lattice-like soundscapes founded on layers of synths and loops, both Hauschildt and Emeralds – the now-defunct band that projected him to fame in the electronic music circuit – have always drifted serenely between the gravitational pulls of raw 70s prog or kosmische rock and more production-heavy electronica.
Indeed, Where All Is Fled evokes in the listener this same sense of drifting – at times serenely, at others helplessly – across the aerosol blackness of space. Unlike the more rhythmic Sequitur LP, it creates this feeling through a lack of definition. There are pulses, but they tend to ebb and flow like tidal waves or blink like distant stars; rather than constant, they are as untethered as floating debris. But that debris means life – something of which Hauschildt projects signs or echos throughout. The earthy sound of a marimba-esque layer in “Anesthesia” could have grounded the listener, but it’s filtered so unobtrusively between the celestial synths as to merely suggest a fading memory of life below. Further on, the chirp and croak of decaying animal noises greet us in the first half of “Aequus”, a Latin term meaning equal or level but likely chosen also for its watery connotations – the atmosphere of the piece being redolent of a rain-drenched jungle. Most palpably of all, the ambient vocal chanting that emerges from the epicentre of “The World Is Too Much With Us” could represent Earth-based humanity’s final lament.
The atmosphere never relents, but the mood takes a turn to the sentimental in several of the more melodic tracks. That the record is book-ended with such pieces (“Eyelids Gently Dreaming” and “Centrifuge”) means that this impression endures beyond the final notes. Between, the title track deviates with a dominant piano-based refrain. The chord progression is sweet, and the distortion that emerges is unable to breach the calming chrysalis that has surrounded us. The record’s zenith is “Arpeggiare”, the bulk of which balances a frantic arpeggiated rhythm with an exquisite chord progression and a languid melody in different metres. A dance floor would be kept pulsating until the introspective ending, concluding a seven-minute piece of three wonderfully varied movements.
A sound both retro and futuristic. Having absorbed this captivating record, the line becomes pertinent in another sense. When you gaze at the stars so remote, it’s easy for things close by to lose definition and for our limited perceptions of space and time to distort. There’s a widespread belief that some of the stars we observe may already be dead; while this is discredited, it’s undeniable that we are essentially gazing into the past. But might we also be gazing into our future? Could civilization find refuge among the stars, when Earth is doomed by our multiplying and avarice? If so, Hauschildt has created a soundtrack from that future – a synthesis of artificial and natural sounds that hints at possibility and interjects with memory. (Chris Redfearn)