Release Date: Oct 28, 2016
Record label: Kranky
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Three years ago, friends and I gathered around a laptop in our kitchen to watch a livestream of Felix Baumgartner’s Stratos jump, when the Austrian daredevil stepped out of a capsule lifted 128,000 ft into the stratosphere by a helium balloon and fell to Earth. As the balloon rose higher and higher we had taken turns queueing a very unsubtle score: Arthur Russell’s "This Is How We Walk on the Moon", The Knife’s "From Off To On", anything from Brian Eno’s ambient catalogue; each of us smug but quietly thrilled by our pairing of favourite tracks with the spectacle on the screen. If that jump were taking place today, we’d all be playing Strands.
"Oozes rather than flows." That was Time's assessment of the oily Cuyahoga River when, in 1969, it combusted into flames and into a nationwide story. (They also noted that a person submerged in it "does not drown but decays.") Though it had caught fire 13 times before then, that filthy waterway snaking through the heart of downtown Cleveland prompted the Clean Water Act legislation and has not burned since.It's not the most bucolic body of water, but Cleveland native (and former Emeralds member) Steve Hauschildt drew inspiration from the Cuyahoga. "I was very interested in the dichotomy of oil and water and the resulting, unnatural symptoms of human industry," he noted in the announcement of his sixth solo record, Strands.
A year after the sprawling Where All Is Fled, Emeralds co-founder Steve Hauschildt released his fourth solo album for Kranky, a much shorter effort titled Strands. The title relates to the construction of ropes, and the pieces on the album have a similar quality of being loose and amorphous, yet they also hold together tightly. They're largely free of conventional rhythms, but there's a definite flow to them, and they never feel like they're aimlessly drifting.
You don’t come to one of Steve Hauschildt’s records expecting, or even hoping, to be surprised. The Cleveland electronic musician's consistency is one of his great strengths: His synthesizers ripple like a mountain stream at peak snowmelt, and his frictionless pulses represent only the finest qualities of electricity itself. They feel like dreams of a coal- and hydraulic-free future, when mammoth wind turbines and sparkling solar arrays offer the promise of a guilt-free grid.
Strands is a very sad, elegiac ambient record. Based on this sentence alone, you probably already have a fairly accurate guess as to what Steve Hauschildt’s latest album sounds like. You perhaps imagine something like, oh I don’t know, endless slow washes of melancholy synths that evoke forgotten, deserted landscapes stretched out to the horizon.