Ian Hawgood‘s latest magnum opus is a subliminal journey into the sound. The music flows via an arch of dynamics, clearing the path for the listener to follow within. Opening with a buzzing slab of noise, the piece ascends up an envelope of distortion, until the guitar roar disintegrates in its own effects and suddenly subsides. And if you have made it this far (about ten minutes or so into the album), you’re about to be rewarded with the most delicate isolationist ambiance you have ever heard. Welcome to The Shattered Light – you have arrived. Upon your check-in, please leave all of your belongings outside. You won’t need any of the material possessions in this cabin. Your ears is all that you’ll need. Step right in, and please do not adjust the thermostat. You’ll have to use your inner light for warmth. And remember, there is absolutely no smoking during this trip.
The deep rumbling ambiance immersed in a dark hissing wind slowly resonates in the upper register. It’s hauntingly beautiful, somber and still. The barely audible melodies play with my mind, tricking me into turning up the volume, when tranquility is required instead; and so I let it hum. The sound recedes further, uncovering a thin current of air that gently sways in the open space. The low and dull vibrations seem to swallow all atmospheric frequencies, yet the presence of droning harmonies is clearly audible – a testament to quality sound engineering feat. Finally, the chords settle in. The music is still very dense. Deep in this tempest of sonic gale, I think that I hear other sounds, or maybe I’m starting to hear things again. After all, I’m still in that solitary cabin, out there, by the sea.
The Shattered Light is Ian Hawgood’s first solo release in the last three years. There was a collection of remixes and reworkings titled Slow Films In Low Light (Home Normal, 2010) as well as Hawgood’s collaboration with bvdub on The Truth Hurts (Nomadic Kids Republic, 2011). Plus, this release is the first catalog release on Hawgood’s new label, KOMU. Wait a second… new label? What? Ian Hawgood already runs and operates three other independent labels! There’s the Tokyo Droning handcrafted imprint with releases by offthesky, Segue, Tobias Hellkvist and David Newlyn; then there’s Nomadic Kids Republic with gorgeous albums by Maps & Diagrams, Haruki, Pillowdiver and friends; finally there’s the critically acclaimed Home Normal, the main parent label, with many fantastic releases by Celer, bvdub, The Boats, Konntinent and many others… And now Hawgood kicked off KOMU (short for Koen Music), which he introduces with the following (excerpt) mission statement:
“The mission statement of KOMU is to release highly personal works which are as pure, stripped-down and devoid of all the pretence that comes with running a label. The design, art, music and the spirit it has been made in should reflect this. […] Our gift is one of musical and visual creativity, but we are just carriers of such a gift and our aim should always be to look beyond the indulgence of the ‘I’, and to transmit our message together. Rather than the ‘me’ brigade who have come to pollute all music scenes, this message is one of spirit, sincerity and giving to others without thinking about anything else. The message is music, and fuck all else.”
I can’t say that I disagree with any of the above. And I think that this thought resonates throughout the music. The Shattered Light happens to be one of my favorite Hawgood’s album to date, and I honestly can’t stop listening to it. The ‘highly personal’ approach that Hawgood mentioned above is without a doubt present throughout the album, and it is clearly audible from the start. I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you’re a fan of Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Aidan Baker and Lawrence English. Be sure to also check out the second release on KOMU by Black Elk, which is a quartet of Ian Hawgood, Tim Martin, Danny Norbury and Clem Leek!!! How is that for a lineup?