- "Oozes rather than flows." That was Time's assessment of the oily Cuyahoga River when, in 1969, it combusted into flames and into a nationwide story. (They also noted that a person submerged in it "does not drown but decays.") Though it had caught fire 13 times before then, that filthy waterway snaking through the heart of downtown Cleveland prompted the Clean Water Act legislation and has not burned since.
It's not the most bucolic body of water, but Cleveland native (and former Emeralds member) Steve Hauschildt drew inspiration from the Cuyahoga. "I was very interested in the dichotomy of oil and water and the resulting, unnatural symptoms of human industry," he noted in the announcement of his sixth solo record, Strands. "It is a reflection of my hometown where I grew up and where it was mostly recorded." There is a liquid aspect to opener "Horizon Of Appearances," the slow swells of Hauschildt's synths suggesting sunlight shimmering on water, with tiny percussive trickles running around it.
Some portions of Strands are so calming that it's hard to stay focused on Hauschildt's expertly woven details. But the album doesn't just seek to relax its listeners. The album's darkest beats appear on "Ketracel." With a sound like rain dripping on cement in an abandoned industrial space, the piece strikes a balance between the abstract and driving sounds that bring to mind early Autechre.
The turbulence of "Ketracel" leads into the smoother tones of "Time We Have" and the title track. While both move at a slower pace, they show off Hauschildt's melodic skills at their most patient, carefully building the tracks line by line until each one grows into a blissed out peak. The penultimate track "Transience Of Earthly Joys" might have Hauschildt's most heartrending melody to date, an echoing piano line that brings to mind Harold Budd's keys ran through Brian Eno's battery of echo and delay. Rather than conjure the vision of a river slicked with ooze, it suggests a rain gently washing the oil off the streets, a rainbow sheen briefly appearing on the asphalt.
01. Horizon Of Appearances
02. Same River Twice
03. A False Seeming
05. Time We Have
07. Transience Of Earthly Joys
08. Die In Fascination