Twig Harper – Twig Harper Hanson Records
Twig Harper is one of the solid suns around which the various planets rotate that make up the noise band Nautical Almanac along with Carly Ptak. They’re from Baltimore Maryland and stay true to a strong passion for electronic experimentation and the harsher end of the sound spectrum. With a truly bizarre history (check a condensed version out on the wiki here) it’s a wonder Twig Harper doesn’t feel someone is out to get him – or perhaps he really does play the devils music and god’s pissed off. Either way, the run of bad luck the band experienced and their relentless come backs form an impressive devotion to music that is not what one would call main stream. It’s fans, however, are devoted, and that can be all that matters.
Not only are the fan’s devoted, but the music is excellent and worth pursuing. This particular disc sees them well rewarded with Twig Harper on his own doing what he does oh so well. The Hanson website has this to say:
First proper CD release from NAUTICAL ALMANAC’s TWIG HARPER. Twig was a big
part in HANSON RECORDS getting off the ground back in the mid-90’s, so I’m very
excited to release his debut solo glass mastered CD! Hot off the barefoot of
his collaboration release with DANIEL HIGGS on THRILL JOCKEY… “TWIG HARPER”
continues in the alternate universe tradition of his three volume “Intuitive
American Esoteric” LP series, with 43 minutes psychedelic tape manipulations and
droning synthesizer… electronic and organic sound mixed to brain warping
perfection. Bell’s, homemade electronics, synth, piano, strings, junk, horns
and voice treated with tape for “full-on” musique concrete / sound poetry /
electronic trance inducing confusion.
I am a Pierre Henry fan, so the nod to Musique Concrete was warm welcome for me. The first track (listed above) starts with a kind of semi-ambient guitar drone with a little background / aftershock synth adding in some crackle and moan from the electronic world toward the middle and end. The off-key sloping lilt to the sounds gives the music an eerie feel, especially with melody making its contribution almost as an afterthought – a little like a busy childs playground across the road and in the background to shots of a rather grisly murder scene. Despite its darkness, it’s an easy slide into a complex disc. Definitely the most accessible of all the tracks.
Track two will start with an easier crackle and squeak of electronica and slide fast into nothing-soothing-about-this-bells that transition smoother than you would think into some hard-core noise time. It actually is a rather soothing noise moment, with a lot of echo and electronica scratches to keep it from that gut-wrenching talk noise can speak. This segues into more electronic squeaks and almost bird-twittering-like sounds that pop and crackle a little like track one. Distorted vocals keep the sound dark despite the lightness of the tone.
We move into trance territory here with some harder noise and electronic drone. Still, one of the things I really enjoy about this album is its various layers. While that shrill noise attack goes on the piano provides a thumping base line and the quivering sopranic synth has a solid base from which to launch. It rounds the hardness of the sounds and softens its sharp edges without diluting the angst ridden sound poetry. The occasional cymbal and the incessant rumbling of that piano tie us to a tradition that plays with the reoccurring images the music evokes. It’s hard to dismiss the relentlessness when its made up of so many different sounds working together. It evokes a dark, demonic style orchestra with (just perhaps) a touch of a conservatism that makes the track interesting.
The final track is different again, moving more toward an electronic experimental style rather than the solid drone of previous tracks. Heavy breathing and deep dark whispers keep the final piece in the realm of our nightmares so we dojn’t drift too far into easy breathing space. I couldn’t quite make out the lyrics in the final piece of spoken word behind, above and all around the audio but they are the same sentence repeated into a distorted pattern that refuses to let me relax. It might be “dissolve / Become” but I may also be imposing my love of poetry into the tracks.
Twig Harpers disc is available through Hanson Records. (they’re closed at the time of this posting – just for the summer though)