Label: Notice Recordings
Chicago trio Haptic (Steven Hess, Joseph Clayton Mills, and Adam Sonderberg) return for their second Notice release, a densely evocative quartet of pieces that continue to reflect a deeply specific sense of place and purpose, recorded using a “steadicam” approach: probing, passive, multidimensional; a voyeuristic yet highly intentional form of documentation. Although Haptic was initially formed (in 2005) for the purpose of live performance, the rigor of their process continues to be well-suited to recording; these tracks suggest film sound design in their precise, evocative choices and creative blending of sounds, and in the way they unspool as if moving through physical or visual environments. "BTWN 65, 52" whips a pounding backbone into a blinding gale with richly odd electro-percussive tics, while "Lost My Shape" churns with the mysteriously foreboding chorus of activity of a multi-use former factory: the mechanized effort of conjuring precise forms.
On the first Monday in July of 2019, we met up and set out to make what would become Weird Undying Annihilation. It's a record of full stops and one incomplete sentence. It's best appreciated through headphones.
The last sentence of the above paragraph could be said of scads of records. The advice is given here not because the material is difficult to hear but rather because the recording process encourages careful, focused attention to where the sounds are placed in the stereo field.
We’ve been interested in working out an aural version of a steadicam tracking shot for years—creating a sense of movement through a physical space, zooming in on details, then pulling back and shifting focus in a continuous, fluid way—but the circumstances have never been quite right to explore the idea fully in a recording. Achieving strong and seemingly organic figure/ground relationships between various recorded materials is relatively easy to do with a DAW, some good monitors, and a great deal of patience, but seamlessly documenting that dynamic in a live setting is more challenging. In August 2016, at Constellation in Chicago, we gave a performance that used the full extent of the venue’s expansive stage to explore some of these issues, using instruments and other objects as much for their plastic, sculptural qualities as their sonic ones. The concert incorporated shifting distances, changes in scale, and wide dynamic ranges, and it invited varying degrees of focus as different areas of the performance space vied for the attention of the audience. Without careful preparation, it would have been difficult to capture the effect with an audio recording, but a handful of photographs and a few seconds of video remain to remind us of the experience.
The recording conditions when we convened in July 2019 were not dissimilar to the setup at Constellation: an almost-empty apartment, with a few different "workstations" arrayed on the floor and scattered on tables, populated with small speakers, percussion, playback devices, electronics, and cassette tapes, among other items. We could move freely around the space, activating various devices and performing on instruments. The entire session could be recorded steadicam style, which involved moving around the room in a slow, noiseless, and deliberate fashion; the figure/ground relationships between the various sources could be composed through movement, and in real time.
Nine months later, in April 2020, the material was edited, layered, and mixed in the same space in which it was recorded. Doing that work in the same room, nearly a year after recording it, one could see how the space itself had evolved - the light, the arrangement of furniture, the deadening of the acoustics brought on by more stuff everywhere – and the final product emerged as a kind of superimposition of those two days within a single space. Our hope is that a sense of that space—and of the relationships developing in that space—is apparent throughout the finished recording.