But then I gave it a play... and it turned out to be great.
And differently great - nothing like Burial or Caretaker, or all the revenant-jungle I've been posting here, or anything else in this vein really...
Rippling reverb-misted pianos and a sleepwalk trance of drum machines and pumping bass - the vibe is much more Ultramarine's "British Summertime" than ardkore. And there's this sound that's in most of the tracks: a high-pitched "peaky" timbre that is... ecstatically edging into dissonance, is the best I can do by way of describing it.
It reminded me of what Trevor Horn once told me: his belief that great albums have the same sound running all the way through - his example was The Blue Nile's Hats - so that every track is a chip off the same lustrous block, refracting slightly different.
I asked Matt Saunders - a/k/a Assembled Minds and who also runs the label Patterned Air Recordings that Creaking Haze is out on - about the sound, and this is what he said:
"The sound was an attempt to capture the warmth of tape in the low end, and a kind of 78 vinyl scratchiness in the upper, tapes and records that have become frozen repositories of events passed by. I love the idea that when you play an old record, particularly ones recorded first take, no production, no making alterations to the moment as it actually happened, you’re reanimating that moment, projecting the sound of the room and the sound of the event into the present and into a new room and a new event. Making a portal between distant events.
"Originally, I’d wanted to write tracks with a very high melody, low bass and not much in between to create a kind of musical skeleton, not much on the bones! It’s something I want to pursue further.
"Combine that with recording to old tape, analogue synths and creaky effects, and mastered through old valve and analogue gear and you have an album that is threaded with the same DNA and hopefully, sounds like an event that happened somewhere else, sometime else."
I'd say he's succeeded in creating that "elsewhere / elsewhen" effect - you definitely go into a space when you start listening to the album, and nothing jolts you out of it while you're in it - the power of same-but-different c.f. eclecticism / versatility.
Apparently Matt has been working away at Creaking Haze on and off for seven years now, starting off with the idea of "all these old ravers were collectively re-living raves in their daydreams, trying to attain the euphoria their middle-aged lives lack." (Again with the uncomfortably on-the-nose / close-to-the-bone !). "Almost like yearning for an acid-rapture." He also says that his goal was to make a record that "sounded like it came from a definite but intangible ‘place’, a place it had existed and lived in, and degraded somewhat, gathering a patina in its journey from where it existed to now. The idea of the album existing somewhere, spectrally, in the ghostly collective memory of old ravers was there in essence from the start, and grew stronger as the album came together."
More Patterned Air patter about Creaking Haze
"Traditional analogue studio rituals, sci-fi dreaming, shimmering ravecore techno and arcane LED-lit magical practices make an odd kind of vintage haze. It is the Assembled Minds’ intention to collide wide-eyed sci-fi ambition with dirty workshop magic./// 'Creaking Haze' is an investigation into how a 70's British horror movie would sound, if a strange kind of proto-rave dance music had been at the director's disposal. We call this 'techno-Morris-horror'. Enter our world, wide eyed..."
"The creaking haze of near forgotten, ages-old Saturday nights out; spectral dance music; flashback drug events; our young wide-eyed ghosts staring into the cardice fogs of synth-storms and heart accelerating drumbeats"
and even more
"Creaking Haze is foggy, hauntological techno; a strange mix of British suspense/horror film tension and euphorically happy-beat-cycling. Listen closely and you’ll hear rust-flakes from the eerier moments of Tubular Bells, broken pistons from a flipped Detroit techno juggernaut, even flickery moon-bell-echoes of Morris jigs and baton clashes. It’s a wyrd electronic album of rural myth and country-fear and it’s flipside, city-rites and night bus anxiety…"
and yet more
"This is an album that almost doesn’t exist.
It’s a cloud of old memories; a collective remembrance-pool of distant Saturday nights out, rave-fields, night-clubs, dancing, getting intimidated, getting high, feeling the love of the tribe but always looking over our shoulders for some dark threat or other. And best not mention the bad trips.
We’re getting lost in daydreams of flickering techno-rituals and the blinding lights of open-til-4am chippies. We’re dancing and belting around in the swirling whiteout haze of decades gone-by, and the highs we’re indulging in from these vaporous remembrances are becoming unbearably addictive. They’re almost too good to ever come back from; they’re so much better than the shit we have to deal with in the real world. So when the whole of the tribe is back in the rave-fields in a simultaneous collective recollection, every one of us dancing in the eerie pulsing fog, perhaps then we’ll choose to stay there in that moment, and fade away happily, if slightly intimidated, into our own memories."
The artwork and packaging is great too (photo nicked off Robin the Fog) although I have already lost the little leather tie thingy with which you seal up the package!
Now somehow I completely missed Matt's previous group Magnétophone (on 4AD) even though it's up my street seemingly.
This isn't even the first Assembled Minds album, either. There was also the more Radiophonic oriented Tomorrow Curves, "a collection of analogue sci-fi soundtracks and voltage controlled incantations".