One of the small joys of quarantine has been the daily legal walk. In my area, this means heading north past deserted shops, south to the bay or east to a series of small parks. Coen Oscar Polack‘s latest excursion is described as “urban escapism;” ironically, the park to which one goes “to get away from other people.” Two months ago, this meant getting away from crowded urban areas and work environments, but now it may mean getting away from our homes and our families (even though we love them).
Polack is fortunate to live in Haarlem (Netherlands), which includes a lovely park where one can pet pigs. While listening, one thinks more of a farm, but that’s the point: to escape through the imagination. Playing the LP provides its own escape, beginning with lush birdsong only occasionally punctured by the sound of a motorbike. Even looking at the cover, one is already getting lost in the foliage. Nearly indistinguishable processing and light synth add texture to the sonic experience, plunging it into the realm of the idealized. In “Een diepnoodlottig neergelaten wenkbrauw,” meditative chimes donate a feeling of goodwill, despite the odd translation: “A deeply fatal lowered eyebrow.” A gong appears two tracks later. Electronic droplets join live flowing water; the birds seem to enjoy both.
The only silence arrives midway as the album is flipped. Sheep and goats wait on the other side, just like in the Gospels. The kinderboerderij sounds like a fun place to visit. Polack makes it sound a bit more ominous than it probably is ~ but then again, the point of a children’s farm is to introduce the little ones to the animals that they will eat. The un-oiled fence of the subsequent piece joins chime-decorated drones to produce a feeling of light menace, quickly offset by “आवारा,” the album’s most peaceful entry. The juxtaposition of unease and calm is more effective than the latter might have seemed on its own. In the end, everything dissolves in light waves.
If the urban environment is getting to be too much, Haarlemmhout is an invitation to get away ~ if not physically, then at least sonically. There is still goodness outside our walls. (Richard Allen)