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Excavation [Digipak] *


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Performer Notes
  • Photographer: Cody Cobb.
  • "Creeping" and "funereal" aren't necessarily terms many artists would want associated with their music, but in the case of the Haxan Cloak (aka producer Bobby Krlic), they're not just accurate, they're complimentary. The Haxan Cloak's self-titled debut album traced the journey of a character who was dying, and there was a morbid beauty to its drooping strings, rattling percussion, and dragging tempos, all of which were shrouded in the subtlest electronic drones. On his first album for Tri Angle, Excavation, those electronics come to the fore as Krlic imagines what comes after death; while this overtly electronic approach is more in keeping with his new label's roster as well as other contemporaries like Demdike Stare, Krlic also makes it into a showcase for just how much he can do within his very specific range of moods. At times, the way Krlic artfully places his drones to convey a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom recalls Xela, another artist who borrowed from metal as well as experimental electronic music, and the huge drums and lower-than-low bass on "Consumed" are heavy enough to pound listeners six feet under. The Haxan Cloak often felt like it was a doom metal album arranged for a string quartet, which made it particularly unique since not many contemporary artists make such ominous music with that kind of instrumentation. Though Krlic downplays the strings on much of Excavation, they're still used potently, whether they're set to a slow, swooping beat that could be the swinging of a scythe on "Mara" or paired with a raw synth bass to queasy effect on "Dieu." Texture and percussion dominate Excavation, and that's also where Krlic's fondness for acoustic instruments expresses itself on these songs. He sampled the collection of orchestral drums and percussion at the Britten-Pears Foundation for the roiling sounds that punctuate the album; on "Miste," they ricochet around a sample of a shout that's so finely chopped that it never rings out fully. This ambitious sound design extends to the two-part works like the title track, where scraping textures expand into a fascinating tug-of-war between disorienting edits and kinetic rhythms. The album reaches score-like heights on "The Drop," a 12-minute tour-de-force that spans some of the Haxan Cloak's prettiest moments to some of its most foreboding before reaching a finale that's as inevitable as it is open-ended. Even if it's not entirely clear where the character listeners have followed since Krlic's debut ends up at Excavation's close, it's undeniable that the album takes his gift for channeling dread in subtler, more complex directions and deserves to be listened to under headphones in total darkness. ~ Heather Phares
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