The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
Label: Tri Angle Records
The Haxan Cloak is the electronic/drone project of London-based Bobby Krlic, and if the album cover doesn’t already give it away, he produces some of the most dark, haunting and atmospheric electronic music to come out of the UK for a long while. “Excavation” is his second full-length album, the first being a self-titled released in 2011.
So far, Krlic has stated that there is a running theme behind these two albums so far: the first album soundtracks the journey of a man nearing death, who reaches the end at the final track (Parting Chant), “Excavation” continues the journey afterwards, neither in heaven or in hell, but in (his words) “and excavated level of existance”. However, this is still a very dark journey of sounds, textures and landscapes.
The intro track Consumed opens with this growling drone that’s soon joined by hollow chants echoing in a void and quickly cut by sharp strings that rise into a combustion; resulting in an even meaner growling bass drone than the one in the beginning, with an almost judgemental drum striking at an extremely slow beat. THIS is the sound that horror movie trailers should have. It’s waist-deep in suspense and rises from there, ensuring you feel the impending claustrophobic death you’ve always had nightmares about. It’s nothing short of intense and scary.
Excavation, Pt.1 feels like you’re trapped in the beating heart of a void, floating through a space that feels forever. Within the heartbeat, different textures come and go – mostly static crackles, sharp feedback and skin-crawling ambience. Unlike a lot of ambient/drone, there is a clear motion set, a drive behind it all. It’s not like it’s something like this could be easily played at a club, but there’s a direction with beat that moves it forward and the throbbing grow of it all (much like Aphex Twin with his ambient works). Excavation, Pt.2 pushes this sort of feeling further, perhaps being even more likeable than the first part, opening with what doesn’t sound too far from something you’d expect from Nine Inch Nails’ punishing “Broken” material (but 100% electronic here!).
Fifth track Miste picks up the pace further. Instantly blaring what sounds like a female’s echoed gasp (either out of pain or shock), the track proceeds with a thumping bass with an inverted gasp/breath that rides along the beat, all accompanied by the slow groan of a bow on an upright-bass. It’s just brooding yet at moments (short ones at that) has a feeling of hope, again, a little like some of the tracks on Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ work for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo OST”.
Dieu breaks from the mold slightly and doesn’t feel like it folds into the atmosphere of the previous tracks quite so much, but still remains pretty dark overall. It’s almost reminiscent of Venetian Snares’ dark moments with creeping strings and sinister electronics, before blasting into breakcore mayhem. However, there is no breakcore here, so you get this prolonged atmosphere and build, like something is about to grab at you, but you’re tortured by never knowing (or getting) the moment.
The last track The Drop (also the longest at just under 13-minutes) feels like some sort of warped and extremely morose version of College & Electric Youth’s track A Real Hero (from the Drive soundtrack). Instead of getting that real fuzzy and feel-good synth-pop track of A Real Hero, you get an image of maybe or tired soul finally getting rest or drifting off into their final sleep after a good deed. It’s so right down between celebratory and depressing that you just don’t know what to feel. Again, as the track progresses, it feels like it could have fitted in easily on the soundtrack of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
In all, this an extremely dark album – it’s the perfect soundtrack of a really good suspense-driven horror film; or the perfect soundtrack for reading one of Stephen King’s darkest works at night. While Krlic has stated that the character he thinks of is in neither heaven or hell, that he lived a full life and simply died from exhaustion, this is a nightmare presented in sound. Krlic has managed to make an album as equally as dark as anything Gnaw Their Tongues has managed and without the use of noisy guitars and screams.
Is this impressive? YES. To genuinely quite scare you without using sudden soft-loud changes, screams and harsh noise/power electronics, Krlic has crafted something that could easily make an adult return to a childlike-state of paranoia in the dark. The nearest I could ever do to describing it in a nutshell would be to say that “Excavated” would be ideal as a soundtrack for the film Seven (the Morgan Freeman/Brad Pitt hit).
It’s a must-listen if you have a fair interest in electronic drone music, it’ll make your skin crawl in a good way.
Favourite tracks: Miste, The Mirror Reflecting, Pt.2, Dieu, The Drop.