Greg Haines: Where We Were
Listeners familiar with Greg Haines' previous output might have him pegged as a refined electro-acoustic composer whose works have been issued on highly regarded labels like Sonic Pieces, Preservation, and Kning Disk. Where We Were, while no less thoughtfully conceived than his other releases, represents a bold change in direction as not only have strings been replaced by synthesizers but Haines also has given the forty-six-minute album a dub-wise focus. The piano sounds of yore have been modified to near-unrecognizable degrees, and the rhythms sometimes sound like ones a King Tubby might have crafted.
Haines approached the recording process in unusual manner, too. Rather than laboriously composing the material before bringing it to instrumental life, he recorded improvisations of himself playing piano, vibraphone, analog synths, and percussion (additional percussion was contributed by Sytze Pruiksma, a member along with Haines of The Alvaret Ensemble), and then chose not to re-record the material but to instead use the raw and unedited tapes as the actual content. Consequently, the music is typically bathed in hiss, and what results is a hazy, analog sound-world.
In truth, Where We Were doesn't begin in a manner unbefitting a Haines project, given the degree of textural detail and delicate piano playing dominating the meditative opener “The Intruder.” But four minutes into the piece, the music swells into a swirling synth drone, a gesture that signals Haines' intent to take his music in new directions. That intent becomes even clearer when the second piece, “Something Happened,” riffs on dub-techno conventions, and even plunges into a deep skank at the four-minute mark. “The Whole” goes even deeper into dub-techno, with Haines this time applying the kind of techniques one associates with Deadbeat and Rhythm & Sound, and even allowing an African feel to seep in as well, while “Habenero” rhythmically percolates with all the density of an early Vladislav Delay jam.Haines' previously established persona isn't entirely absent from the recording, however. The funereal “So it Goes,” for example, is reminiscent of his earlier output, even if its ponderous slow-build is realized using synthesizers rather than strings only. And the fluttering arpeggios of “Wake Mania Without End II” likewise hint that there is perhaps a connecting line between Haines and Lubomyr Melnyk's “continuous music.”