Monday, June 1, 2020
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Artist: Torn Hawk
Title: Union and Return
Format: LP
Label: Mexican Summer (@)
Rated: *****
"Union and Return" could be considered a personal and somehow joyful way of revamping the Romantic concept of "Sturm und Drang" by Berlin-based audio-visual artist Torn Hawk, if you acknowledge that the primary sources for inspiration for this album were the paintings of two Romantic landscapists like Caspar David Friedrich - I'm pretty sure many people saw his "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" by leafing through some art history book during school age or as a cover artwork for some reissue of Nietzsche's writing - and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Prussian city planner, architect and painter who poured his awesome architecture both in likewise remarkable paintings and all over former Prussia. In order to render their aesthetics and above all their poetics, Torn veered towards an impressive interbreeding of simple electronic textures and tidy sounds in between the symphonic majesty of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schultze, new age-oriented chillwave and frequent raids into sonorities that could remind the dadaism of some child plays, the so-called epic ambient, soundtracks of video games related to the branch of dungeons and dragons and even new wave and synth pop stuff (if you check tracks like "Thornfield", "With My Back to the Tower" or "Our Knives", you will probably notice some echoes of sonorities that got largely used by Depeche Mode, The Chameleons or even The Cure). In the list of possible similarities I'd also include (maybe for some medieval nuances and the use of military snares in some tracks) some stuff by In The Nursery as well. The titles of the eleven tracks on this album are obviously references to Schinkel and Friedrich - for instance, "Feeling is Law" is a reference to a key quotation to understand Friedrich's poetics (he wrote in Thoughts on Art that "the artist’s feeling is his law. Genuine feeling can never be contrary to nature; it is always in harmony with her. But another person’s feelings should never be imposed on us as law. Spiritual affinity leads to similarity in work, but such affinity is something entirely different from mimicry. Whatever people may say of Y’s paintings and how they often resemble Z’s, yet they proceed from Y and are his sole property.") and the whole sonic environment he rendered by means of elegant and sometimes old-fashioned (some sounds seem to be taken from old MIDI presets...) intertwining of electronic patterns, gentle orchestration, smeared pads and layers of electric guitars evoke the vibrant visions of both painters as well as their strong connection with one of the golden age of German culture. If I have to indicate some glitches of Hawk's output, I will point to the limited palette of sounds as well as the already mentioned antique-like nuance, even if some of the most recognizable sonic "antiquities" are ingredients that highlight its charm.