Michael Hix: Aeon
Paper Garden Records

There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information available about Michael Hix and his full-length debut album Aeon, but the material on the forty-minute release speaks powerfully on its own behalf. We can report that the Tennessee-born and NYC-based Hix (b. 1984) is a composer and musician who uses synthesizers, guitar, and voice to create material that draws upon classical minimalism, sacred music, and late-Romantic styles. Beyond that, however, details about Aeon aren't plentiful, aside from the fact that Hix's “cinematic work” was recorded in Brooklyn between 2012 and 2014 and was mastered by 12k showrunner Taylor Deupree. Don't look to track titles either for meaningful hints as Roman numerals have been used to title five of the six tracks.

“Intro” inaugurates the recording stirringly with four lulling minutes of shimmering ambient washes and shuddering guitar textures, the elements converging to form a gradually swelling mass of splendour. The album's tone having been effectively set, “I” ensues without pause, with this time piano phrases, soft synthesizer patterns, and Hix's own supplicating vocal expressions giving the “movement” individuating character. Like an overt homage to Music for 18 Musicians, metronomic piano patterns rise above the mist, after which Hix ends the track with backwards vocal treatments suggestive of an ululating singer from an exotic Eastern land.

The dream-like quality instated in the opening parts extends into the others: the hymnal “II” perpetuates the vocal-based character of its predecessor before segueing into a plaintive presentation with pealing electric guitar playing at the forefront, while “III” distances itself from “II” in featuring hazy vibraphone textures as well as flute and organ details. The entrancing “IV” unfolds like a prolonged exhalation of hushed voices and gossamer guitars, after which “V,” a seeming encapsulation of all that has gone before, brings the recording to a captivating close.

With each part so different in design from the others, Aeon should sound less cohesive than it does. But in allowing each track to develop so organically and in effecting the transition from one part to the next so smoothly, Hix achieves an overall sense of unity in the work, such that one hears Aeon less as a six-part creation and more as a singular composition. This superb creative effort is also distinguished by the fact that a remarkable degree of balance is sustained throughout, despite the work's ever-evolving nature.

September 2015