An album fuelled by moving testimony...

'Violence In A Quiet Mind', the debut album from Massachusetts born Haux released on Color Study, marries elegant instrumentation with heart wrenching story telling. Pooling from the difficult course his life has taken, Haux, real name Woodson Black, provides a window into his struggles on a brief but intense album that clocks in at just over 30 minutes long.

There’s a lot to like about 'Violence In A Quiet Mind'. The journey we take over the course of the LP begins in haunting fashion with ‘Hold On,’ the understated but no less powerful introduction to the inner-conflicts that permeate the album, as well as Black’s uniquely quivering falsetto. This then gives way to ‘Salt’ in which the mix of Black’s vocals and acoustic guitar are reminiscent of Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s earlier work.

The influence of indie-folk runs throughout 'Violence In A Quiet Mind' and, while his use of the piano is sensitive and well executed, the moments where Black’s voice comes through strongest are those led by the guitar. The effervescent emotional openness of late noughties Bon Iver and the darker moments of Ben Howard’s 'I Forget Where We Were' are clear reference points to the album, with the swelling climax of the heartrending ‘Killer’ acting as testament to that.

The thematic pivot of 'Violence In A Quiet Mind', comes at just over half way, however, with ‘Heavy’. Central to the album’s second single are the traumatic events from Black’s childhood that colour the rest of the album. His mother fled to New Mexico to escape the drug-addled relationship with Black’s father, she then returned to raise Black alongside his two aunts and grandmother. But the death of his two aunts, one from lung cancer and the other from a fatal overdose, left Black feeling more emotionally vulnerable than ever.

But it’s this vulnerability that shapes the album. So intensely personal are the stories Black tells that, after a month of writing and recording on the Isle of Harris in Scotland, the American songwriter almost gave up on releasing the album altogether. It was only after conversations producer Thomas Bartlett (Sufjan Stevens, The National, Vagabond) that Black decided to change course and open up his story to the world.

For all of it’s moving testimony, 'Violence In A Quiet Mind' ends on a note of positive acceptance. ‘Calico’ acts as Black’s final goodbye to his aunt who passed away from an overdose.

Black explains that, “when I was writing the album last year, I lost my phone and had forgotten to back up my voicemails. One of those recordings was my aunt calling to say happy birthday - it was one of the last times I heard from her before she died from an overdose”, he goes on to say that, “the loss triggered a very strange and confused grieving process as if I somehow lost my last connection to her. From this, I wrote ‘Calico’ and I couldn’t help but feel like this song was maybe my last time with her — like the song itself was my aunt’s final resting place in my mind."

Haux’s debut provides profoundly touching moments throughout it’s half-hour length, but it also offers strength in it’s emotional honesty. Through intensely personal storytelling, Black has created something that is undeniably relatable. Whether through shared experience or a basic recognition of the feelings on show, there is a sincere universality in his music.

7/10

Words: Ben Miles

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