Ian Hawgood: Tents and Hills
Humming Conch

Ian Hawgood's been incredibly prolific the past little while, with a new collection seemingly showing up every month on one label or another (Dragon's Eye, his own Home Normal, etc.). Written and produced between October 2007 and June of 2008, this latest release actually already appeared in part (its first four tracks) as an EP on luvsound in March 2008, after which Hawgood created four additional pieces to go along with them. Like much of Hawgood's material, Tents and Hills merges purely synthetic and natural elements into drone meditation settings of sometimes recognizable and sometimes abstract character (the mass of sound streaming through “No Clouds” could be a piano chord stretched out indefinitely, for example, or it could be something else entirely).

A few tracks concentrate on ‘musical' sounds: “October” blossoms from a single-tone electrified drone into a multi-tiered field of tonalities and shimmering washes, and “Wake Up Mountain” unfolds as a mini-wonderland of rich contrasts, with pitter-patter, shimmering tones, clacking noises, and—surprise!—a straightforward drum beat all appearing during the track's brief runing time. Elsewhere, Hawgood lets the ‘real' world prominently seep into the material in the form of field recordings captured during hiking and camping expeditions. “Parasol” speckles its serene electrical drone setting with faint bird chirps and crackling sounds suggestive of a campfire. During “Happy Alone,” fields of symphonic tones wax melancholic amidst looped smatterings of voices, laughter, and birds. In “Curvy Borders,” entrancing slivers of synthetic sound contrast with footsteps crunching through a grassy forest area. The fifth piece, “Foothills,” strikes perhaps the most equal balance between musical and field recording sounds, with drone surges sharing space with the dense collective sounds of dribbling water, crunchy footsteps, and passing trains. Even when the sound sources prove unidentifiable, the album's material still exudes a natural feel due to the humanizing fingerprint of Hawgood's distinctive sensibility, as well as an outdoorsy character consistent with the album's title.

May 2010