Former Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt hasn’t been as prolific as his counterpart in Mark McGuire, but taking his time has given Strands a conceptual hopefulness that’s immersive and gorgeous. The record is built around the concept of strands of rope, none as taught or as slack as the other, and the way they braid into a whole piece as the eye backs away. The pieces on Strands bubble and swim through a Kosmiche palette of watercolored tones, underlit with a touch of hope and a good dose of wonder. While synth has enjoyed a rather healthy spike in interest this year, most seem entirely beholden to the horror soundtrack, white-knuckle tension model that’s been brimming to a full cup for at least six or seven years now.
What separates Hauschildt from those who would seek to stretch their Italo-horror muscles is the sense of wonder over fear. There are certainly parts of Strands that hit tense notes, as would be expected from a project that ebbs and flows into a living organism, but he never hammers the fear home. Others just tighten the grip on the throat continually but there’s more power in a quick, tense knot than in a stranglehold. Those moments of tension are more gripping because they emerge from moments of beauty. Hauschildt’s added another layer as well to his tone painting, degrading the normally clean tones with a bit of dirt mixed in with the colors. The effect gives texture and cracks at the oftentimes pristine world of synth quite nicely. In this respect Hauschildt has found common ground with another of synth’s craftsmen not afraid to muddy the channels, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.
A long time coming but completely worth the wait, Hauschildt’s vision pulls into focus with each repeated dive into his aquatic wonderland. We may be hitting peak synth this year, but its great to see someone pushing harder to elevate the sound.
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