Haq – ‘Evaporator’ (2019)
Evaporator is the sophomore album from the international trio Haq, a collaborative effort between Japanese duo N-qia (vocalist Nozomi and sounds programmer Takma) and prolific Edinburgh artist Harold Nono.
They released their debut back in 2013 and this follow-up mini album consists of five new tracks with multiple remixes of most of the tracks. As with many Bearsuit releases, the tracks traverse the electronic and glitch soundscapes, with Nozomi’s ethereal vocals floating along the horizon. (I’m not sure if she’s singing in Japanese, or inventing her own language, a la Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser and Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi. In the event, it’s all rather sexy and glowing.)
The syncopated ‘Antics In A Maze’ perfectly encapsulates the dizzy, directionless antics of a rodent working its way through a maze, the remix of ‘Bees In My Feet’ may frighten you into thinking your CD is defective (such is the nature of the glitch/noise music scene), but there is a melancholic dreaminess under all that clatter. ‘Cannula Itch’ is a lilting lullaby interrupted by the sound of someone digging a ditch – percussive effects startle us from our revelry, but Loalue’s ‘Remix’ is more relaxed, focusing on gently plucked acoustics and wobbly electronics…that is, until the circus comes to town and once again jostles us from our complacent easy listening habits. Which, after all is said and done and listened to, is what Haq do throughout this challenging listen that encourages to drop the distractions and listen to what music can sound like when it doesn’t follow traditional linear song patterns from beginning to middle bridge to end chorus.
‘Dustboy Horrorshow’ is anything but. It may sound like the latest Manga or Anime sensation, but it’s really a dreamy, floating cinematic piece of soothing electronics and percussives with Nozomi once again hovering over the proceedings with her angelic utterances. Of course, being Haq and Bearsuit that we’re dealing with, there’s always that possibility that things will go south and rattle your expectations and morph into something resembling Captain Beefheart or the Residents crossed with Faust and Einstürzende Neubauten on summer holiday at the beach! Ida66 and Ryota Mikami’s remixes make the most of the track’s internal combustion chamber of sound to elaborate on the electronic elements that veer towards industrial noise (particularly the latter’s epic 9-minute revamp). It’s chilling and enthralling in a rubbernecking sort of way – like staring at a traffic accident because the terror and horror fascinate your inner fascination oat someone else’s misfortune. A broken piano in a faraway room struggles with percussive clanging and grunting, emotional voices (perhaps Nozomi) that remind of the early sound experiments in films – I was reminded of Canadian film maker Guy Madden’s soundtracks and the industrial, electronic soundscapes of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
The title track is also perhaps the most accessible in terms of linear attraction, but even here the aura of Yoko Ono permeates the yearning lyrics and clanging keyboards that drive the track into your skull where it takes up permanent residence while you enjoy the remainder of the material. ‘Norvell’ covers the same ground, with that eerie, ethereal atmospherics that Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch concocted for their Twin Peaks collaborations with Julee Cruise. Maybe there’s even a space on the bill for Haq at the next show at the when Twin Peaks returns?!
Bearsuit can always be counted on to deliver unexpected sounds that challenge your listening habits. If you can be jostled from bad habits of expecting every song to have a beginning, middle, and end…in that order…then Haq will reward repeated listens. It may even take your brain a while to re-acclimate itself to that latest skull-numbing nonsense that tops the charts these days after finishing Evaporate. Which turns out to be a perfect title, after all!
– Jeff Penczak
Haq – ‘Evaporator’ (Bearsuit Records 2019)