Haptic: The Medium
Flingco Sound

Haptic's The Medium is one of those all-too-rare instances where the music and visuals work perfectly together, in fact so much so that having one without the other would render the experience incomplete. One can, however, purchase the music separately as either a limited-edition 12-inch (pressed on 180 gram vinyl) or as a digital download but the optimal format in this case is clearly the DVD (available with one hundred copies of the LP). The Medium finds Haptic members Steven Hess (Pan American, Fessenden, Dropp Ensemble), Joseph Clayton Mills (Jonathan Chen, Dropp Ensemble), and Adam Sonderberg (Dropp Ensemble, Civil War) revealing themselves to be more alchemists than musicians (the trio is abetted by contributions from Boris Hauf, Olivia Block, and Tony Buck). The two pieces, each approximately twenty minutes in length, are molasses-thick, slowly-mutating drones of spellbinding character that merge symbiotically with video artist Lisa Slodki's hypnotic footage.

The first opens with achromatic film footage of a child's face and hand surfacing out of the blackness and then disappearing, accompanied by the rise and fall of high-pitched tones and a projector-like churn. Like decayed, decades-old film footage unearthed from a dank basement, chiaroscuro images slowly come into focus, one a ring-like oval whose glistens bathe the screen with white light (an eerie motif that appears repeatedly), and another sparkles reflecting off of a river's surface. Soon children appear, all of them looking like escapees from The Night of the Hunter and all in various states of mesmerization: a droopy-lidded girl, a similarly sleepy boy, and a girl lying in bed, immobile but for her darting eyes. While the imagery unspools, the equally hallucinatory music swells into an insistent electrical drone speckled with cymbal showers and subtly wavering tones.

The second piece opens with footage of a woman's face, the focus primarily on her dark lips (reminiscent of Man Ray's The Lovers) and the bright white teeth her smile exposes. Accompanying the image is a droning mass whose haunted tones, scratches, and clicks grow in intensity, with hand percussion and cymbals also punctuating the drone. The ring of light returns, followed by a woman studying herself in the mirror, the slow-motion repetition of which makes her seem as transfixed by her reflection as Narcissus. Muffled explosions accompany cut-up treatments of another woman moving in stop-motion increments, the grainy look of it similar to a blurred Gerhard Richter painting. Finally, a man, his boyish features calling to mind a young Truman Capote, covers and uncovers his face while the percussive rumble and clatter grows so loud it threatens to bury the electrical drone.

Though Haptic's two pieces would no doubt prove haunting enough on their own, they become positively nightmarish when merged with Slodki's visual counterpoint.

February 2009