Haptic ~ ten years under the earth

This is an album for late nights, when all is still and even minute noises are amplified.  A panacea to the din of the outside world, ten years under the earth exudes patience and wonder.  It’s a fine return for Haptic, the trio with a rotating fourth ~ this time Tim Barnes, who introduced the other players to Louisville, Kentucky’s “honeycomb of caves.”

The field recording aspect is first and foremost: water dripping from stalactites, the unidentified rustling of creatures scurrying away from the light.  The cavern is generously reverberant, a natural recording space that may once have served as a prison.  Descending into the abyss, the four players carry their humble instruments – shortwave radio, cymbal, bell, drum – and enter into conversation with the cave.  This is no ordinary concert, but a private pas de deux, an experience of listening and reflecting.  The music is molded around the preexisting echoes.  Glass and metal sing to stone, water and dirt.

To many in its maw, a cave is sinister, foreboding, claustrophobic.  Not to Haptic.  They commune with found materials, treating them with the reverence one might apply to relics.  Rainwater bounces from cymbals.  Rock is struck against rock.  Each sound inspires a corresponding pause, a deep awe.  While recording, the four improvisors lose all track of time, guided not by cell phones, watches or clocks, but by subterranean breath.  While listening, one experiences the same temporal disruption.  The quartet emerges into the sun; the home listener falls into silence.

There is also excitement here: a deluge that envelops the sound field in its closing minutes.  Once heard, the downpour becomes the denouement: subsequent plays swap one form of anticipation for another.  The second time around, the listener feels a sense of build, akin to that of a cathartic post-rock finale.  The beauty of the experience is its origin.  As humans continue to chase artificial highs, with diminishing returns – the next big movie, the next big holiday – satisfaction beckons in the vast, unheard landscape.  If we offer our humble sounds in return, we only echo the reciprocation of the tribes who came before us, who put into practice the knowledge that we forgot.  (Richard Allen)

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