Former glittering Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt’s new solo LP is a typically expansive suite of pieces, pulling in synthesis, field recordings and acoustic instrumentation to form some heady trips. Where All Is Fled wavers between abstraction and melodies, mostly hitting that sweet spot where neither dominates. On Kranky.
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Remember Pokemon Emerald? That was a good game. You play as Steve Hauschildt and your rival is called Mark McGuire; Professor Oak is also there, struggling to listen to drone. Since the dissolution of that band/video game, McGuire’s been making lofty beat music like a more reserved M83, while Hauschildt has Kranked it up a notch by workshopping romantic ambient sheen. New album ‘Where All Is Fled’ finds him in a relay race between melody and abstraction, at different points reaching for the purity of both but instead creating the kind of narratively driven sonics of the old Emeralds days.
It’s gorgeous stuff, but be warned: that comes from the sense of wanting Hauschildt creates. His music masquerades as floaty ambient, but there’s a hunger in it, a sense of emptiness filled by searching, unresolving melody. He comes chiming in like Stars of the Lid caught in morning fog on opener “Eyelids Gently Dreaming”, but immediately sounds unsettled, like there’s a whole landscape of the unknown lying in wait. The record then begins to struggle, invoking beatless climax music in which synthlines desperately mutate and exaggerate -- “Arpeggiare” is our first sign of it, while the bleeping Kosmische synth of “A Reflecting Pool” (a la Tangerine Dream in a nightmare) is darkened by an airy droning backdrop. The skyline on that front cover is accurate: this music feels synthetic, comprised of unnatural objects and shaded in all the wrong colours.
Hauschildt's dark ambient is different from others’: it can sound bright and hopeful even as the light’s going out, with the beaming chords and clouded beat of “Anesthesia” sounding like an embrace of the unknown. Kranky’s about to drop two of this year’s most ominous ambient records in this and Christina Vantzou’s, but where hers is a soul-sucking dementor of an album, this feels like a constant adventure, music that discovers and accumulates. Forget Pokemon; I feel like I'm playing a deserted MMORPG, and the loot's all mine.
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