Hypnotic and electronic would you believe it was made from the Earth? Vast wilderness and lakewater, scooped up and sculpted into one sonic fixation: You’re changed by the landscape, so you change it back.
From the tiniest sound makers, flies and mosquitos, to the effervescent flowing streams that lap and lap, Höhn is a 7-track album made entirely out of foraged field recordings. After travelling and camping through four remote locations in Alberta and Quebec, Eric Haynes turned raw sound into explosive composition.
A pianist and composer born in Calgary, Eric studied jazz piano at McGill University before he co-founded the neo-soul collective Busty and the Bass. During their nine years together, touring across North America and Europe, Eric became increasingly aware of the landscape’s ability to sync up with the subconscious — how geography as a whole could inform an entire community and its culture.
“Humans interact with place in a way that we don’t always understand. We are losing sight in our digital age of how much we are a reflection of our surroundings,” he says.
When a show in Berlin inspired him to tap into the ecstatic directness of techno music, he began expanding his practice. In an effort to challenge the oftentimes redundant universe of sample packs and software presets, he decided to capture raw sound from the Canadian landscape.
The imposed constraints allowed him to steer away from that all-too-clean digital perfectionism, and dive into an improvisational environment where he could fuse harmonic concepts of jazz with idioms of techno music, bringing something distinctly organic to electronic production.
Rippling streams, bugs, distant fireworks, tossed firewood, waves crashing, birds calling, kids yapping, all redefined and stretched across the keyboard, making their own scales for synths or warping to fill roles like kick drums and hi-hats. Backpacking for days on end, submitting to the ruggedness of beauty, he began taking notes.
Using a few penned adjectives and sketched images to guide him, Eric ensured each song in Höhn remained entirely composed of its own location’s sounds — making each sonic atmosphere a unique artifact.
Braiding the natural with his own experience and reflections of nostalgia, he inserts his emotions and fuses with the summer scape — preserving the memory without adding anything that wasn’t once there.
Höhn lets the environment talk, creating a greater message without a lyrical angle. Ambient and lucid, an ethereal trance, you plug in, unclench, submit to becoming unknown in the wild and return to your instincts.
A hug with goosebumps as you ascend into Red Earth Creek, only to be dragged back up the endless woodland journey. We remember the perseverance that takes over in the elements, the capacity for non-human connection to sway and shift our insides into a primal state of relaxation. Rain falls in Oka in time for revelation, gradual shifts in perspective, wondering how willing the environment is to host us. A sense of invasion, CHH echoes with awareness, the cyclical and the inescapable, into unease and unrest in Calgary, even as a door swings wide open. A call to arms, the strike of a match in a darkly lit cave, La Crête swallows us with hard-hitting facts, a visceral release, animals and the deep savagery of the wild that must be salvaged. Höhn tugs you on this remote trek to give you something contemplative, what it means for a place to become a home. The energy is powerful, and we have no choice but to exist. The EP lets us off the hook at Egypt Lake, where we can reassess what’s different before returning to our social order.
The EWI (electronic wind instrument) appears on the project, taking the manipulation a step further — adding more active instrumentation to the project without breaching the constraints. His brother, Stef, programs the machine and wails away like a saxophonist.
By recontextualizing sounds, Eric reminds the audience that all sound is music. Blurring the lines of what we hear and what we choose to listen to, he advocates for climate justice, a movement that has been muffled due to the urgency of the global pandemic.
“I think about whether that campground in Oka will still be here in 20 years, or whether the St. Lawrence water level will just wipe it out. While I was there, the beach had already flooded and become half its usual size. Same with the Rockies, after the glaciers melt, will people be able to record the streams?” he says.
The deeply textured pulse-infused listening wakes up our eco-consciousness, stimulating our sense of responsibility and encouraging a type of sonic bioregionalism. If we listen closer, we just might connect further.
Höhn immortalizes the natural world, puts a piece of the planet in your pocket with bass-bumping vigour. The paradox rings loudly, as we are reminded that harmony can exist when we decide to bridge the gap.
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