Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: Mexican Summer
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Chillwave
Luke Wyatt's relocation to Berlin sparked a departure in his music: along with moving away from the States, he moved away from the sample-heavy "video mulching" aesthetic that helped define Torn Hawk's earlier albums and singles. Instead, Wyatt drew inspiration from the work of 19th century German Romantic painters such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Caspar David Friedrich, whose landscapes were imbued with powerful feelings, rather than just portraying picturesque settings. The Romantic movement was also fascinated with death giving way to something new, and Wyatt eschews the ironic distance of his earlier work in favor of more direct music that lies somewhere in the uncanny valley of electronic, classical music, and pop.
While Luke Wyatt's Torn Hawk project didn't quite qualify as a member of the chill/vaporwave Class of 2010-11, his music shares much in common with them. He too is infatuated with VHS culture, infomercial soundtracks, primitive video games, bad TV cop shows and the distorting haze of memory. But while someone like James Ferraro or Oneohtrix Point Never would deploy samplers, synths, or computers to playfully deconstruct those memories, Torn Hawk’s weapon remains that other '80s artifact: the electric guitar.
Torn Hawk, the pseudonym for multimedia-hoarding polymath Luke Wyatt, claims to have composed and recorded Union and Return entirely in his new Berlin home. Listening to the LP, this is a startling premise: for an album filled with such panoramically stretched-out songscapes, it seems impossible that it could have been born between four walls—by a single person adrenalized by a flight of imagination. Yet this is exactly what happened, and the result is a collection of 11 lushly orchestrated electro-fantasy compositions that spin stories suited for some blockbuster adventure film series.
Onwards and upwards, we follow Luke Wyatt into the sky. With his days of dropping ebbed-out techno splits on L.I.E.S. fully behind him, Torn Hawk wades even deeper than ever before into the clean waters of high-definition inspirational musics on Union and Return, furthering his motto of overcoming personal strife through sweat and self-improvement (a traditional perspective filtered through the utter absurdity of the man’s music).