Howse HowseLay Hollow
A good release from the Tri Angle label is made based on two inevitable elements: a crepuscular atmosphere and an intricate rhythm. The best titles that Robin Caloran has put out so far – whether those of Balam Acab, oOoOO or Holy Other (and we might need to set aside the sweet R&B of AlunaGeorge as the exception to the rule) — dip into the finest textures, like curtains of moonlight with an abstruse beat swimming underneath, showing a dangerous edge as if it were the fin of a shark stealthily gliding towards its prey. And while the ambient background tends to be non-negotiable - whether the work is related to dream-pop or has a ghostly quality - the types of beats in the label’s catalogue have gone from the typical 808s of crunk and witch house at the beginning to the more fragmented, quicker beat, directly influenced by footwork, that one hears now. But the effect is always magical, and “Lay Hollow” is no exception: with this new title, Tri Angle remains on top form.
Howse is a newcomer. Like oOoOO and Balam Acab, he comes from the American underground - specifically from Providence, the city that for so many years was home to terror writer H.P. Lovecraft - and he answers to the name of Nathaniel Oak, if that name isn’t another alias (it sounds just a little too Gothic to be real). The five songs on this album - which is an EP or a mini-LP, depending on how you look at it - outline a language firmly established on the principles of poetic evocation and rhythmic nerve, with the halo of the old atmospheric drum’n’bass of the Spring Heel Jack and LTJ Bukem period, but now with footwork patterns. “VBS” is like that; it creates a feeling that is very difficult, but not impossible to create: one of relaxation and forgetting oneself, while the beat is speeding along underneath at 170 bpms. Howse achieves this with elaborate, weightless textures that rise like a building made of air, marking the contrast between a turbulent bass and a cupola raised to the sky, with pinched voices; something like a post-juke cathedral.
Before this, “Other Ways” makes it clear that Howse is not willing to negotiate with forest passages and mossy ambient: he twists them around and runs them through filters of tenuous light, making a simple note swell like the sail of a ship as a gust of wind fills it. Underneath, he lets the first breaks fall–between juke and jungle, like an even more delicate version of the sound of Dream Continuum or Machinedrum. The breaks repeat themselves in the even denser, more terrifying “Fete”, the end of a 12” that must be listened to at a resounding volume in order to achieve the perfect effect: physical paralysis - it can’t be danced to in a club, the impact is so lovely that it lifts you up - with your mind raised to another plane of existence. The influence of Boards Of Canada on Howse’s music has been mentioned, but it isn’t exactly like that: “Old Tea” and “Dephs” reflect not nostalgia for a lost childhood or a state of happiness, but rather a memory of unsettling events. Instead of happy music, it’s the music of someone tortured, casting a bridge over about 20 years to Matt Elliott who, as The Third Eye Foundation, was already blending post-rock and shoegaze rarefied with saturated, highly dynamic breaks into a cocktail that tastes sweet at some times and bitter at others; in any case, it is as delicious as a poison sipped pleasurably. With “Lay Hollow” Howse couldn’t have gotten off to a better start; henceforth, whatever will happen in the future lies in his hands, and from what we have seen, they are very good hands.