Info Touching the heart of the drone 
"The Medium"
by Haptic

Haptic's URL


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

The most common mechanism for creating drone music is through long hours in the studio, perhaps overlaying several different layers of sound and painstaking details in the mix. But it is also increasingly common to find groups of musicians layering drones live, in real time, sometimes using recognizable instruments but often incorporating homemade electronics and, of course, the ubiquitous laptop. One such group is the Chicago-based Haptic. With a stable membership of Steven Hess on percussion, and Adam Sonderberg and Joseph Clayton Mills on electronics, Haptic regularly perform with a fourth invited guest in order to inject an element of unpredictability into their performances. Their first, recent and widely available release, The Medium on FSS, also includes contributions from Boris Hauf, Tony Buck and Olivia Block, artists who have performed with Haptic in concert.

Although The Medium is available as a download, like other FSS releases its primary format is vinyl, each side containing a single side-long track (with unadorned titles One and Two). One starts gently with wispy, tentative gestures and a slow, minor key melody drifting without much attack. But it expands with an a-rhythmic rattling, as from crumpled paper, and constant white noise, perhaps played by Hess on cymbals. A high-pitched sine wave provides some focus along with a rumbling bass, with small sounds like bells and maybe one or two plucked guitar notes. These elements circulate, drifting like a mobile, leading to a solid electronic drone with a wide harmonic range at the end of the piece. Two has more resonances in the underlying drone, bell sounds with long, slow oscillations. But as the piece progresses, the focus changes to more clattering, percussive sounds, wooden rattling panning across the stereo field and contact microphones amplifying sounds that were never meant to be heard. In a transitional section half way through the piece, what sounded like paper wads in One is amplified to sound like giant furniture being tossed around in the next room, big booming rumbles reaching deep into sub-sonics. This again leads into an accumulation of small percussive sounds, with just enough electronics to fill the sound, as a single bell tone reverberates into room ambience and white noise to conclude the side.

Haptic have been performing together since 2005, long enough to give the group a solid intuition about each other. Their music is more electro-acoustic improvisation than the drone's gentler ambient cousins. Individual contributions blend into a slowly evolving texture, combining deep resonances with subtle, chaotic percussion, with just enough references to focus attention through the rich, simmering background.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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