In its early years, Haiku Salut was a cheerful electronic band, but in its middle period the band began to evolve into something new. The group’s score for The General was more pensive and sedate than fans had expected. With The Hill, The Light, The Ghost, the band splits the difference with a set just as intricate but more intimate than previous works.
The new album is informed by field recordings and a fascination with sound lost and found. The band’s Sophie Barkerwood samples an abandoned piano, a single trumpet note, even an operating table. The video for “I Dreamed I Was Awake for a Very Long Time” epitomizes the approach; Gavin Repton films the players in a deserted yet still decorated house, adding touches along the way: family footage, faded clippings. The camera moves around the attic in horror film style, but the music is to upbeat for fear to invade. Flashes of light reveal hidden things: peeling wallpaper, fallen bricks, abandoned belongings, and the band members, integrated into the detritus. The VHS movies seem like a show about ghosts, for ghosts. There’s no telling what the rustle is at 2:09, but no one is flustered. Look, there’s the trumpet! And now, a typewriter echoed by a keyboard and a musical pulse imitated by a light: a happy haunting.
The album proper begins with the birdsong of “Wide Awake.” This is a mindful awakening, an easing into the day: the curiosity being the inverse relationship to these titles that each reference the word “awake.” Midway into the album, the theme carries into “How the Day Starts.” Sophie’s field recording is active in “Entering,” catching traffic and conversation before the song stretches its wings. A clock ticks faster than 60 ticks per minute; time is distorted here.
Those who miss “classic” Haiku Salut are directed to “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace,” which begins as pulsating, ventures into the propulsive and ends in the pensive. Haiku Salut may be quieter, but their hearts are still electronic. The second half of “Try Again and Again and Again” continues this tempo-driven template, while intimations of clockwork resurface at the beginning of “Trespass,” supplanted by the play of children. By the end, the birds return, because nothing the band has played has been loud enough to scare them away; Haiku Salut is now gentle enough to attract birds, children and ghosts, a rare feat. (Richard Allen)