A picture can say far more than words, which is often a tricky concept for a writer to swallow. In the case of the latest album from Berkeley, CA producer Scott Hansen, the sleeve image for ‘Epoch’ says far more about the content than its simplistic three colours and two shapes might otherwise suggest.
A bright circle floats above a darkened trapezium on a ruddy background. You could be staring at the descending sun from a pier stretching out into the Bay with all the details obscured by block colours, or it could be a simple arrangement of flat shapes. It suggests that there is no right answer, and, like the music on ‘Epoch’, there is no precise way of appropriately making sense of its switches and juxtapositions.
Its tracks include elements that are smoothed into almost liquid form in their texture (the circle) or spiky and angular in their presentation (the trapezium), ranging from transcendent and elegiac to dark and edgy, sounding like futuristic classical music and 1970s German rock and most points in between; it is everything and nothing all at once, and a powerful testament to the creative energies of its creator.
At its best, ‘Epoch’ has a delicate, introspective fragility that emerges on tracks like ‘Horizon’ and the title track via overlapping waves of sound and crisp, dependable beats; euphoric, for sure, but muted and blunted enough to not sound artificial and still retain a core warmth and beauty. At its most ambient, ‘Receiver’ is one of the most chilled and impassioned pieces of quiet, melodic electronic music since Global Communication’s ’76:14’. The looser, rockier moments like ‘Source’ and ‘Local’ find Zac Brown’s guitar pushed to the fore, only to be processed and layered upon itself time and again; proof — if slightly controversial, still — that rock music is infinitely more interesting when subjected to electronic interventions.
Like the possible interpretations of the sleeve image, what you hear in ‘Epoch’s soundclashes is entirely down to you. There is endless detail, nuance and endless depth to ‘Epoch’ if you listen carefully enough; or, if so minded, it can just sound like a bunch of nice songs made with electronics and guitars that will happily nestle in the background and not bother you in the slightest. Irrespective of how you choose to approach it, the final instalment of the trilogy that Hansen began back in 2011 fully underlines his strength, deftness and creative dexterity as a producer.
Words: Mat Smith / @mjasmith
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