Robert Haigh: Creatures of the Deep
Unseen Worlds

British composer Robert Haigh would appear to be an inordinately gifted chameleon. This is, after all, the same Haigh known for drum'n'bass productions created under the Omni Trio name as well as industrial-avant-garde material issued as SEMA on Nurse With Wound's United Diaries label. And now, Creatures of the Deep shows Haigh creating piano-centered ambient music as if he's been doing it all his life.

Admittedly, the pieces on Creatures of the Deep are hardly sui generis—the material is clearly indebted to Harold Budd and Erik Satie—but that won't make it any less appealing to the insatiable ambient listener. Even the track titles invite the Budd comparison, with “Sunken Pavilions” and “European Dusk,” to cite two examples, sounding very much like the kind included on Ambient 2 (The Plateaux of Mirror) or the like.

A piece such as “Portrait With Shadow” is relatively simple in construction but is no less endearing for being so, especially when it's so melodically haunting. It's hardly the only setting that's alluring either, as pretty much every one of the eleven pieces is distinguished in a similar way. In some instances, the piano playing is presented naturally; in others, “Sunken Pavilions” a case in point, the treatments are so pronounced the keyboard functions more as a source from which endless, blurry reserves of echo and reverberation billow forth.

With ambient atmospherics so prominently featured, “Koto Line” points us in a Budd-Eno direction when minimal piano figures give off a reverberant glow and koto plucks intone against an opaque, field recordings-enhanced backdrop of brooding mystery. As evocative are “Winter Ships,” whose becalmed and stately flow conjures the image of a ghostly galleon carving a slow-motion path through an ice-covered sea, and “I Remember Phaedra,” where flute sonorities imbue the darkly droning moodscape with a prog-like caste.

Throughout the recording, Haigh enhances his advanced command of production design with one pretty melody after another, making for an exceptionally well-crafted collection that, while derivative, nevertheless offers a great many moments of listening pleasure.

November 2017