Hessien: Obelisk|Stelea
Fluid Audio / Handstitched*

Charles Sage and Tim Diagram ensure that their Hessien EP (if a forty-three-minute recording can still qualify as an EP) Obelisk|Stelea will receive the attention it deserves by coupling its four originals (the Obelisk half) with remix treatments by Solo Andata, Jasper TX, Zelienople, and Konntinent (the Stelea half). A compelling quartet on their own terms, the originals (all recorded on location in Queanbeyan, Australia and Cambridgshire, UK) are five-minute dreamscapes flowing with acoustic guitar plucks, lo-fi electronic haze, sparse bass tones, cello, e-bow, pedals, softly murmuring voices (contributed on “Five Sisters” by Jane Williams), and field recordings. “A Letter from Engels” merges stately, slow-motion guitar snarl with waves of ripple and crackle, while in “Breaking Webs,” the distorted twang of an electric guitar pierces a glistening cloud of hiss and fuzz as minimal bass lines intone ponderously at the center of the shuddering mass.

As one would expect, the remixers adopt a liberal approach to Hessien's material in imposing personalized stamps on the originals. In Solo Andata's hands, “Gazed and Pale Reflections” turns into something that could be mistaken for Celer, so immersive and ghostly is the outcome of the makeover. In the remix, the original's acoustic elements are submerged within an opaque fog, the primary exception being a series of electric guitar convulsions that pierce through the gloom. In Jasper TX's treatment of “A Letter from Engels,” blurry washes of haze and static swell into a softly wailing mass, while Zelienople's “Five Sisters” version gently pulsates like some acoustic-inflected take on krautrock. Konntinents' “Breaking Webs” interpretation radically distances itself from Hessien's original by re-sampling and re-routing it via tape deck until it sounds like it's drowning in hiss and fuzz.

No expense appears to have been spared in the presentation of this Fluid Audio / Handstitched* split release as each of the 200 copies is encased within a letter-pressed cover that's slipped into a silk-screened cotton pouch, and accompanying the CD is an eight-page booklet containing specially commissioned poems by Estela Lamat. Such attention to detail makes the release seem all the more special.

November 2010