The name Ian Hawgood should not be a new one for those with an interest in the Ambient underground. Look in your collection, I am sure the Home Normal imprint will be there, if not one of the many releases that he has mastered should be – just to give you an example, in 2018 he’s mastered releases that have included the likes of Bruno Sanfilippo, r beny, Illuminine, Aaron Martin, Machinefabriek and others. Largely silent, solo album wise since “The Shattered Light” (Komu), although albums like “Piano Songs” and “Love Retained” which are archival and sketches respectively, Ian’s output has recently been confined to collaborations with Wil Bolton, Giulio Aldinucci and Danny Norbury. While musically scarce, he had been establishing relationships with the likes of Slowcraft Records, Dauw and Eilean Rec to name a few. Such is closeness of Home Normal and Eilean is that Home Normal re-issued Jason van Wyk’s “Attachment” and this album, originally released on Eilean Rec in an edition of 200 copies, is getting a vinyl pressing of the same quantity with 90 bonus minutes of additional material with the download.
“Ian Hawgood is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, instrument builder and sound engineer. He is the curator of the Home Normal, Tokyo Droning, Nomadic Kids Republic, Koen Music, and Folk Reels labels. He is well-known for supporting the early net-label scene and his sound design work has featured in installations and galleries around the world. His work as a mastering engineer features heavily across the ambient, experimental and post-classical scenes, and he currently writes music for theatre and film. His solo works have featured on a number of labels over the past ten plus years, and among his many collaborations he is perhaps best known as the sound architect behind the Black Elk quartet, as well as his work with Bvdub, Danny Norbury, and Maps and Diagrams.
Since 2012 he has been working on creating music from old disused reel to reel recorders, his childhood piano, and an array of vintage synths he has been collecting for the better part of twenty years now. ‘光’ (which could be translated into « light » or « shine ») is his first fully developed solo album in 6 years”
“序” aka “Sequence” opens the album with sine wave noises, glitchy static and intertwining long drones. Reverberating and manipulated piano tones come through with bird song accompaniment. The sound feels distant, much like those whose albums whose theme revolves around memory. As this album was recorded using old reel to reel tape recorders, you get the feeling that it was possibly re-used tape or just the recorders stamping their own personality on the music. The slow pace of the minimalist piano anchors the piece with the drones have a freedom to soar and traverse. Being layered and of different sound templates, they offer a rich multi – dimensional feel.
“波” aka “Wave” begins with solo piano pieces with the natural environment, creaks and other noises included in the recording. Drones that slowly build up from barely there to very present tend to be sonically separated from the piano in headphone listening. There a stratastrophic feel to the drones – as if it is swirling air, such is the lightness of the sound and the melody imbued.
“屈折” aka “Refraction” contemplative piano that sounds at times to be faltering as if emphasising a mood opens the track before a swirling drone enters bringing with it a feeling of intensity that in a way compliments the mood of the piano. As in real life you can be feeling both apprehensive and contemplative with a bundle of emotions stirring inside you. This is how this track feels to me. For the final third of the track the drones take over the track with some slight warped sections of sound and static engulfs towards the end. This could be the emotions spilling over.
“旅路” aka “Journey” drones open the track with a feel of oscillating strings with a higher level drone on top. They tend to largely disappear or hide once the piano enters the piece, which with its pace and intensity of playing is more urgent than the previous tracks. The drones surge once more with a ringing sound announcing the return of the piano. This interplay between drones and Piano happens one more time prior to the end of the track, with each section making the drones more pronounced than before. The track ends with a synth drone that mirrors the piano pieces.
“消滅” aka “Wipe Out” evolving out of silence multi-layered long form drones create a rich sound tapestry and bed for the fragile piano to lie on. The texture of the drones changes, which draws in the listener, while static makes the piece feel like it is distant and wind-swept and possibly the way the static overwhelms the track is the reference to “Wipe Out” as it drowns everything.
“Every Ending Is A Little Sadder Now You’re Gone” for some reason and I can’t put my finger on it and give an example of why I think this, but I feel this could be a reworking /re – visiting of a previous Hawgood piece, or inspired by one. The title reveals a certain despair that I know his work has touched on before. Musically it feels in a way of layered recordings of the same piece. As the track goes on the general static and detritus that surrounds the piano tends to take over and gives this sort of blurred reflection feel to the track. The sound quality reflects the built up emotions touched upon in the title. The drones hold onto a haunting melody similar in nature to the piano. This is the standout track for me.
“Hurt Whispers On” welcomes a final triptych with fractured and manipulated static and noises swirls around airy drones that are long in form and have the textural appearance of gliding. Small fragments of piano are uncovered under the maelstrom that have a darker tone. The noise dissipates and leaves the drones and loop like sections of piano to shine with the drones taking over as the main element. There is a sort of wavering in the intensity and frequencies of the drones that give them a storm like quality. The drones lead in nicely to “But Such Arcs Remain” which features more strident tones on the piano. There is a certain weight behind the playing that brings in the feeling of intent to the playing. The final keys around a minute or so in just resonate out with this wave-like drone that is vibrating, but staying fairly straight in its trajectory. This again leads nicely into “A Light That Never Dims”. The drone remains, but this time the piano feels almost random in the playing. The intent is different, it’s like at the start of this trio of songs the piano has gone from being minimal through to more present and intended, to this time being introspective. A series of moods have been examined and much like life, there is reflection at the end of it all. Towards the end of the track static, the breaking down of equipment overwhelms the music.
Having a casual look at Ian’s Discography and I can see around 20 physical releases that I own, plus a big bunch of the early net label releases he put out. Judging this you will know that the likelihood is that I am going to appreciate this album. When you think that the download from the Home Normal vinyl version contains an additional ninety minutes of material, then there is plenty of great music to absorb. Recommended.