Processing in the Cloud

From NYC Bryce Hackford with the album Cloud Holding (FUTURA RESISTENZA RESLP011) …this fellow has been experimenting for some time at the edges of electronic music, issuing records for Spring Theory, Perfect Wave, Meakusma and others; his 2015 album Behind seems to be a uniquely American take on Cologne glitch, in parts even more minimal and muscular than Raster-Noton could manage, yet still recognisably (just about) operating within an avant-techno context.

Today’s item seems to be one step beyond all that. It’s very hard to tell, but I think Cloud Holding was done by processing of live music. He’s doing it with other musicians and singers, such as the flautist Ka Baird, trombonist Michael Wrasman Hurder, and vocalist Alice Cohen. The press note by Nina Bower Crooke invites us to hear Hackford’s work as “little sculptures of sound”. Hackford was playing live music too, including an old Wurlitzer organ and something called the “Nobara”, a species of electronic koto with a lot of built-in preset sounds. Matter of fact that koto appears on several tracks. There’s a good deal more to the project than an electronicist simply sampling live improvisation, though; even the basic recording of the six players was unusual, as none of them could hear what the others were doing, and this injected the degree of synchronicity that our man is looking for. I guess Hackford’s digital processing, and mixing, is a large part of the work, but the performances still underpin everything.

The end results are quite unlike 99% of improvised music, and at first spin I found it was almost possible to mistake Cloud Holding for a very modern form of minimal electro-pop, an extreme remix project where even the backing vocalists have been transformed into unexpected shapes. At the same time, the music is quite rootless, almost nebulous in the way it refuses to coalesce into solid shapes. This can pass on an impression of dreamy insouciance, but Hackford’s intention is far from the swaddling clouts of any average ambient producer, and he doesn’t shy away from jarring, uncomfortable sounds when the occasion requires it. I was wrong to mistake this as a “sampling” record on first listen, as it’s evidently been assembled and created with a good deal of care and sympathy. From the same Belgian label that brought us the unusual Fernand Schirren LP in 2021. This, from 21st February 2022.