This Steve Hauschildt article was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster
You may know Steve Hauschildt better under the guise of Emeralds, a moderately successful three piece Cleveland band that were pushed into the limelight by indie brand Pitchfork Media. Winning awards for the Best New Album from the aforementioned Pitchfork Media and the Album of the Year Award for 2010 from Drowned in Sound, the eclectic trio released over 40 singles, LPs and EPs over a three-year span. As if this wasn’t enough, all of the members released material under solo names. But it is clear, simply from the opening seconds of this album, where the influence for Emerald’s tracks was coming from.
This isn’t meant to be a comparison article, but if it were, ‘Where all is Fled’ (‘WAIF’) would be light-years ahead of Emerald’s vast quantity of material. Without the glitchy beats that erode the band’s core material, or confusing maximalist inspired melodies and progressions which consist of a wall of sound and layers, ‘WAIF’ is direct and straight to the point. And yet, Hauschildt still allows an organic and natural development throughout the album that makes for captivating and eye opening tracks.
The opening piece ‘Eyelids Gently Dreaming’ creates a simple 5-note melody, accompanied by a pulsating drone, which expands in awesomeness, as though the album has been granted life. When I listened to it, unprepared, I almost felt life’s problems washing away, like a deep meditation, or a soothing trance. When it ended, and faded out as quietly as it entered, I was left feeling empty, like you do when you’ve finished a life-changing book. As though something colossal had happened, be it good or bad.
What follows throughout ‘WAIF’ are arpeggiating layers and minimalistic spasms that pan in and around a space that Hauschildt has created. His tracks like ‘Arpeggiare’ and ‘Anaesthesia’ fashion an immense mood template, which morphs into tessellating and juxtaposing forms. When all the transitions and developments climax at the equilibrium, the end result leaves you left listening to what feels like a completely different track. His themes develop subtly, reminiscent of Steve Reich’s ‘Piano Phasing’, as each track becomes its own being, transcending the prior track in never ending beauty, like an anthropomorphic beat.
A recurring theme throughout the album is the percussive harmonic taps that fluctuate in complex patterns, supporting the dense drones and strange, yet revitalising, spatial effects that Hauschildt places almost sporadically, amongst the swells. The album feels down-tempo; inspired greatly by the likes of Flume or Boards of Canada (without the samples); taking the listener on a journey, holding their hand as it shows off a beautiful landscape of audio and imaginative possibilities.
But this complex masterpiece does come at a price. It is a great personal album to read to, to meditate to or to just keep secret from everyone else. But other than title track ‘Where all is Fled’ or the oddly catchy ‘Aeqqus’, to play the other tracks without its collective feels out of place. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s excusable if listeners feel as though the surging tracks and intricate synthesizers and melodies would become overwhelming at certain points. The average track lasts five minutes, the album is over an hour long and with only a couple of tracks that leave a significant and memorable imprint, there is a danger that some tracks could lack clarity or meaning to the independent listener whether played continuously or separately. In an attempt to invent something varied and beautifully imaginative, there will always be those whom Hauschildts’ ostracises as they will feel this album is overkill. Hauschildt veers away from obvious melodies, or simple memorable tunes, meaning the album is certainly one for those with an acquired taste.
But at that small criticism, ‘Where all is Fled’ is an electro/trance masterpiece that truly takes the listener on an immense journey. On what is definitely a personal headphone album, Hauschildt has created a unique and imaginative world to become immersed in. It’s not perfect for every social situation, and is suited to personal self-discovery, but that doesn’t take away from the fantastic content, and the ideas that it brings to the table.