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HAPTIC - Ten Years under the Earth

Format: CD
Label & Cat.Number: Unfathomless U46
Release Year: 2017
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €14.00


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Louisville, Kentucky, sits along the banks of the Ohio River, where the river cuts through the limestone and begins to drop away toward the Mississippi. The hills that rise above that river are honeycombed with caves. It was in one of those caves on the outskirts of the city that Ten Years Under the Earth was recorded.
In March 2016, Tim Barnes invited Haptic to come down from Chicago to perform with him at Dreamland, the performance arts space that he curated in Louisville. We were excited to have the chance to play together, and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to record as well. Rather than simply document the concert or book time in a studio, however, Tim suggested that we spend time improvising together in a particularly interesting—and resonant—place that he had access to, one where he had long wanted to record: a cave in the nearby hills. Chris Kincaid, a well-respected audio engineer, composer, and good friend of Tim’s, volunteered to bring his portable equipment along to engineer the recording for us.
The morning after our concert, Tim led us down a series of winding country roads to the cave. Its history is difficult to know for certain. It seems to have been used to store barrels of beer and whisky before the Civil War, and local legends say that it may have been used as a debtor’s prison after that. But now it is largely abandoned, left empty and—except for the occasional concert—forgotten.
Unlocking a heavy, rusted steel door that was set into the side of the hill, Tim led us inside. It took a several long moments to adjust to the darkness, but the light that poured through the doorway and filtered down from the stone ventilation shafts gave some illumination. Then someone hit a switch, a handful of lamps mounted along the walls buzzed into life, and we gradually began to take in our surroundings in the dim light.
It was the spring, and the rains had been falling all week. Inside the cave, the stone floor glistened with moisture and the temperature dropped immediately once we stepped within. From the ceiling above, rainwater that had seeped through the earth fell in sporadic drops.
We had brought only a few simple objects with which to make music: a shortwave radio, cymbals, a drum, a bell, and a handful of other instruments. The cave would give us the rest. A hollow wooden platform stood at one end of the chamber; struck with a stone, it boomed. The rocks that we found scattered on the floor could be scraped along the walls or tapped against one another.
When the microphones were ready, we simply began, working in an open and organic way, and responded to the space—not simply to its acoustic properties, but to its atmosphere: a mood of stillness, calm, and incredible age. We each moved slowly about the cave, placing cymbals where they might catch a falling drop of water, approaching and receding from each other, discovering and exploring, and often simply listening to the patient, almost hypnotic rhythms that the cave seemed to make without the need for our intervention. Each hushed gesture and footstep seemed to fill the entire space. Time seemed to stand still.
When, several hours later, we emerged from the cold half-light of underground, it was a powerful experience to feel the air again, to breathe deeply, and to see daylight. We hope that this recording captures something of the sense of that place and that experience.

(Haptic, 25 October 2017)



"Haptic is not in a hurry. Three years separate this CD from the last recording by Adam Sonderberg, Joseph Clayton Mills and Steven Hess. During that time the trio has played live fairly often, although that rate might decrease now that Mills has moved from Illinois to Arizona.
This recording, which documents an encounter with Louisville-based percussionist
and field recorder Tim Barnes, recalls the trio’s formational impetus, which was for its members to have an outlet for live performance and collaboration with other musicians. But it didn’t go down in front of an audience. Rather, the morning after a concert at Barnes’ venue Dreamland (RIP), they accompanied him to a cave in the nearby hills.
The cave has been put to various uses over the past century and a half, and it is fitted with lamps and electricity. Still, what you hear over the CD’s single 45 minute-long track is not so much a performance as the sounding of an environment. Using microphones, a shortwave radio, a few percussion instruments and the rocks on the floor, the four men tested the space’s properties. Objects boom and echo, droplets smack and splatter and a fuzzy whoosh makes you wonder where water ends and untunable static begins. The vibrations of a bowed cymbal spread and morph, turning quasi-electronic and then fading away. Bell-strikes fade like sonar pings. Nothing is rushed, and the piece’s patient unfolding allows the listener to forget the origin of what they are hearing and sink into the sound itself." [Bill Meyer, Dusted]