Haptic - Ten Years Under The Earth [Unfathomless - 2017]Ten Years Under The Earth blends together elements of (mostly) pared back improv, acoustic industrial/ ritual texturing, organic dark ambience & field recordings. The single forty five minute track offered up here moves from the foreboding & eerier, to the building & atmospheric, onto the denser & (semi) noisy.
Haptic are an electro-acoustic project from Chicago, and they have been active since 2009- releasing around ten or so releases. This CD release is the projects debut release on Unfathomless, and it comes in a double sided colour sleeve packaging- which features linear note card, slip sleeve, and outer clear plastic sleeve- the release is ltd to 200 hand numbered copies.
The album was recorded in a cave/small tunnel in Louisville, Kentucky- apparently this setting was originally used for the storage of beer & whiskey barrels during the American civil war. And the sounds from with-in & via the setting are used here to great effect, and are really key to the pieces effectiveness & composition. For this release the project are a four piece of Adam Sonderberg, Joseph Clayton Mills, Steven Hess & Tim Barnes. They used a fairly pared-back selection of objects- taking in a shortwave radio, a drum, a bell, and a handful of other simplistic instruments.
The track opens with a sparse bed simmering & low-end droning- this is gradually edged with a blend of dripping water & slowly rolling rock crunch. As the track progresses you get a slowly building & growing network of scrapes, metallic drags/ judders, muffled bassy hits, and stretched-out ritual drones. To start with you get a very effective feeling of total immersion/ three dimensional-ness, when playing the track on good headphones- so at times one is even tempted to look around your self, just to make sure your not in a cave.
By around the 6th minute the ringing & chiming sways of metal based drone have seemingly built a pressing/ slowly forking wall- underneath you get the sound of uneven water dripping, & subtle metal hits & drags- and these just remain on the tip of become more uniformed & set, giving a nice feeling of both mystery & surprise.
Between the 10th & 20th minute mark the more detailed & layered percussive elements have come more into play/ focus- with the elements shifting around the stereo channel to nicely disorientating effect. Though at times I wish there was a little bit more shape/ structure to some of the elements in this section; as a times it starts to wonder towards randomness & uneventful ness- through thankfully there is still just enough mystery & anticipation to keep you held into the track.
By just pass the twenty minute mark the sound starts to build once again, with cleverly balanced layers of slowly forking & draging based metallic droning- this is nicely intensified by banks of growing-then- receding slurred percussive rumble ‘n’ thunder. Sadly as the track moves on a bit more, it starts to become a little shapeless again- though I do rather like the unsettling walking like moments that appear around the thirty minute mark.
In the last ten or so minutes things really pick-up effectively, as we get a slowly growing backbone of shortwave radio hiss & at times quite noisy rumble. This is added to by this weird slow breath like textures, a fairly constant brooding bass drum hit, and a selection of carefully placed metallic slices & bangs. With the whole thing ending with a nice selection of rushing & bubbling water textures- which are edged by distant knockings, and outside natural field recordings.
Parts of Ten Years Under The Earth are most effective & worthy- in particular when the layers are either building up, or the more atmospheric dark ambient elements are at play. Where I think there are issues is when the whole is more pared-back, and the collective are indulging in rather lengthy dwells in shape-less taps, knocks, and drags. I certainly like the idea of an unedited sound works of this manner, and someone like Lethe is great at this type of thing. I just wondered if this release might have been better edited down slightly, or made into shorter more focused sections… Roger Batty