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Steve Hauschildt - Dissolvi Music Album Reviews

No longer content to deconstruct the droning sounds of his former band, the Emeralds alum gives Kompakt-style minimal techno a try.

Steve Hauschildt has spent the last decade deconstructing the sound his former band, Emeralds, reveled in. Rather than reliving their past glories, he has isolated distinct elements embedded in the drone mavens’ works—gossamer kosmische, fuzzily tactile swaths of noise, the cool glow of early electronic music, the rhythmic hum of synth-driven post-rock in the Trans Am mold—while pushing those styles to a pretty, fully-realized zenith. In a review of 2016’s Strands, Philip Sherburne noted the Cleveland artist’s remarkable consistency, and how that had brought a sense of familiarity to his latest works. Thus far, you’ve generally known what you were going to get from Hauschildt, and that has been a soothing virtue in its own right.

But his seventh studio album, Dissolvi, shakes things up a bit. He’s still spinning webs of synthetic beauty, but now they’ve taken on the more distinctly rhythmic form of minimal techno, a style Hauschildt only hinted at on Strands. The shift makes some sense: Dissolvi is his first record for Ghostly International, the Ann Arbor-born label that has mostly released a variety of rhythmically driven electronic music during an existence that has spanned nearly two decades. Ghostly’s most explicitly dance-oriented releases frequently have a distinctly Midwestern flavor, from the dirty Detroit techno-pop leanings of Motor City son Matthew Dear to Tadd Mullinix’s excursions into acid house and Dilla-esque hip-hop under various aliases.

What’s surprising is that the actual sounds on Dissolvi seem to come from somewhere else entirely—specifically, from Cologne’s Kompakt label, which popularized the album’s brand of exacting minimal techno. The ricocheting tones that open “M Path” sound ripped from one of Kompakt’s Total compilations, while “Alienself” pulses with an eerie calm akin to sometime Orb member Thomas Fehlmann’s solo output; shivering percussive elements and just a slight touch of acid run through the track’s framework. Hauschildt tackles this new aesthetic territory with clinical aplomb, as though he’s been working within this largely dormant subgenre of dance music for years.

The new sound isn’t his only left turn on Dissolvi: For the first time this decade, Hauschildt has also called in guest vocalists. Avant-classical experimentalist GABI appears on “Syncope,” and her operatic vocals pair nicely with its insistent build, in sky-scraping elisions that soar above the track’s 4/4 bedrock and glitchy synth work. Vocal-loop stylist Julianna Barwick’s contribution to “Saccade” is another ideal marriage of a collaborator’s skills and an overarching style: Her drawn-out notes complement the day-spa tranquility conjured by soothing synths and soft rhythms.

Comparing Hauschildt’s music to the aural wallpaper at a day spa doesn’t sound like a compliment, but he has a knack for taking on aesthetics that aren’t considered relevant or cool. Emeralds’ divisive 2012 swan song, Just to Feel Anything, adopted the chilly, booming trappings of synthetic ’80s rock, one of the few styles from that decade that still hasn’t attained an air of retro chic. His foray into minimal techno, a sound that has been out of fashion for more than a decade in the dance world, is similarly representative of that apathy toward coolness. On Dissolvi, Hauschildt breathes new life into the subgenre by taking it off the dancefloor—and reveals an unexpected facet of his artistry.

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