Hulk: Rise of a Mystery Tide

The line-up of guest musicians acts as a pretty good tip-off for the musical style of Dublin artist Thomas Haugh's latest Hulk album: in addition to his own “organs, drones, bowed guitar, percussion, and found sounds,” his accompanying musicians play cello, violin, viola, bass clarinet, oboe, cor anglais, bassoon, and flugelhorn. In other words, the material—sonically at least—exudes a chamber-like classical character; compositionally, on the other hand, Haugh eschews formal classical structures and opts instead for a free-floating, atmospheric blend that merges the musicians' live playing with electronically-processed treatments of the material. Interestingly, the title of his debut album, Silver Thread of Ghosts, conveys more the ethereal spirit of his new material than does Rise of a Mystery Tide. There's a transcendent dimension to Haugh's music, not just in the yearning that's felt—the instruments in “Empress Moon” sound, individually and collectively, as if they're reaching towards the sky—but in song titles like “Another Icarus” and “We the Gathering Stars” (as it turns out, Haugh deliberately set out to evoke notions of “ancient star sailing, soul searching, and transcendence”). The music often swells into masses so dense it almost feels like one could drown in them; in “The Gate of Orion,” for example, Haugh overlaps so many layers of horns and strings, the only word to describe the result is oceanic. In “Golden Bow,” the instruments become shuddering waves inside of which flickering string fragments echo and fade. If you can imagine a slightly less loop-based version of Marsen Jules' music with live musicians involved rather than samples, then you're fairly close to picturing Rise of a Mystery Tide's sound.

July 2008