Although Greg Haines has always proudly and solemnly confessed the influence that Philip Glass has had on his music, it is interesting to see that Glass’s mark has never been as decisive in the shape of his songs as one might expect. It’s true that this British creator established in Berlin works with sound repetition, but I would almost say it is in a way closer to Gavin Bryars. Furthermore, although his ideas evolve in a minimalist way, when you listen to his albums, you have the feeling that you are listening to a neoclassical author who would prefer to form a part of the throng of contemporary religious composers, than the nucleus of illustrious minimalists.
In this sense, if I had to relate “Digressions” to someone, without thinking twice I would choose the figure of Arvo Pärt. Although he was already a clear influence on Haines’ two previous albums ( “Slumber Tides”, his debut for Miasmah, and the profound “Until The Point Of Hushed Support”), here his shadow is so long that it seems to cover each of the five pieces that make up the album. It is the orchestral Pärt, the one who knows how to hold his breath as the intensity of the arrangement increases, rocking from side to side without making noise, using the instrumental tools of his musicians to weave an emotional sonic spider’s web, which inevitably moves one and makes an impact. The crescendo needs no underlining, it is insidious but not explosive; it chisels away and little by little makes its way into your guts, anticipating an explosion that never arrives. If it does arrive - as in the tense, Hans Zimmer-like “Azure”, which reminds one of the sound track of “The Thin Red Line” - Haines cuts it off at the root, eschewing the need to overdo it.
Somewhere between ambient, holy minimalism and the neoclassical, “Digressions” (his first reference for the immaculate Australian label Preservation) calls on the collaboration of Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm. The first lends a hand with his violin and slight, almost unnoticeable vocal contributions; the second handles the mixing of the album. He had already worked with the German on “Until The Point Of Hushed Tides”, and this is a connection that exemplifies that feeling of community and collaboration that reigns on the neoclassical scene right now in Europe. They all help Haines to make the most satisfactory recording of his career. In it, he sharpens his ability to temper and contain, as well as his serenity, but his compositions do not lose tension, drama, and vertiginous emotion because of that. We could almost say the opposite: “Digressions” bowls you over with the subtlety and delicacy of a whisper.