Chester Hawkins: Semisolids
Intangible Arts

Washington, DC-based Chester Hawkins made a strong impression on textura when his Blue Sausage Infant album, Negative Space, crossed our path in late 2011. We weren't all that surprised by the high level of craft evidenced by the three tracks on the release (one a side long epic), given that Hawkins has been issuing krautrock, kosmische ambient-drone, and electronic music of various kinds since 1986 (the impression was shared by others as well, it seems, as Negative Space received a nomination at the 2011 Qwartz Awards in Paris for the “best experimental music” release). What does come as a bit of a surprise is that Hawkins has since retired the Blue Sausage Infant project and decided to issue his latest full-length under his birth name.

One listen to Semisolids, which Hawkins produced using electronics, tapes, acoustics, handmade objects, and modified instruments, perhaps explains why he's elected to release the material under his own name rather than Blue Sausage Infant, as it's a dramatically different recording, stylistically speaking. In simplest terms, it's a deep excursion into cosmic dronescaping, and one considerably noisier than the 2011 recording. In starting with the throbbing drone “Iodine,” Hawkins wastes no time in setting a viral tone for the album. The material squeals and combusts for nine minutes, suggesting as it does like some amplified recording of micro-organisms being submerged within a lethal chemical bath. Semisolids proves to be no genteel walk in the park, as the rippling immolations that tear through the second half of “Plasmid” make clear.

Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius are cited in the press notes as album influences, and their presence is definitely felt when the synthesizer whooshes and clockwork pulsations of “Nematode,” “Malattia Del Sonno,” and “Plasmid” flood the listening space, and there's enough kosmische swirl present in a representative track such as “Isle of Dogs” to keep even the most insatiable genre fanatic happy. Interestingly, the presence of a plodding beat pattern within “Slender Loris” renders the track less effective; generally speaking, Semisolids' tracks—as the hyperactive “Proximity Fuze” (whose metallic blaze suggests some out-of-control train) illustrates—require nothing more than chugging sequencer patterns to animate them. The album's sixty-seven minutes very much constitute a portrait of the artist as Hawkins is right now, something that especially appears to be the case given that no guest musicians or collaborators took part in its creation.

April 2014