We Are All Human
TBR: 25th January
Label co-founder Steve Hadfield takes on the task of exploring what it means to be a human being through the medium of his trademark warm melodies sewn in with Warp style vintage techno. Since the success of Ether Awe from 2018, Hadfield has grown his mindset to encompass more sides to the story. Where as the previous work aimed to offer an escape from the confusing and frustrating world around us, now we're given an opportunity to turn about and make steps towards resolutions. The onset of tension clearly marks a new wave of intent from the artist, and where the music reveals its adjusted energy, the dream crashes down to unveil the reality of the situation. With questions like “is free will an illusion?” and “can people be evil?”, raging through his mind, Steve Hadfield creates a soundtrack to digest some of these big picture questions.
Opening with a wave of squashy synth tones and a crashing techno rhythm that surges with amplitude over the course of a few bars, a sudden blanket of daylight streams through in the form of high pitched tones. The combination is dirty and fiery yet contains an element of surreal clarity which surpasses all else. High-speed thought processes and underlying emotions which govern their direction merge in a twisting composition of two sides. As the music crumbles down during the midsection, elements of consistency push on through and become the fabric to what builds on its weave. Stunning flurries of melody bounce from one side to another while the thumping drums contain it all within something to dance to. Moral Juggernaut is a huge number, and a perfect start to this album.
A cosmic edge pulls in the scenery for act two, Disco Robot starts with a twinkling of lights from distant skies. Metallic beats ground the music in large spaces of reverb and as everything settles, bass tones add a wandering perspective on the formulation. Twiddly melodics spiral upwards in dancing tunes which give rise to mental images of birds twisting over towers. The high reaching buildings made of bass and drum are lined with windows of splashy cymbal which give everything a sunny reflection. Next is The Illusion of Free Will, an interesting concept and an interesting piece. Unlike the theory, this number does stand up in court. It's a composition of graceful bells and harmonies which give a gentle nudge into shiny waters.
Family Friendly Cryptocurrency explores the idea behind itself. Is there such a thing? Making money out of bubbles is commonly seen as wrong, even if the ones blowing in the air are wealthy. Business sense and economic sense meet somewhere in the middle, and good business is sustainable with clear benefits to the wider society. Can we say this about all the things we give money to? Who knows. This amble through stodgy bass and slowed drums gives us plenty of mental room to muse on the state of the world and the priorities people have. I wish I could never worry about money of course, and would love to make a lot of it, but like most people, I feel that it must be done properly. It's why I put a lot of care into my work, as I hope you can tell.
A quirky title gleaned from music theory for the fifth track, Fsus(b#) add(#5) is the name of a chord if I'm not mistaken. The combination of notes would be the ones I'm hearing perhaps. A spooky and eerie atmosphere with a well lit portion of the room makes up the interesting and widely reaching composition. Repetitive tones and bashing drums which, with a cymbal heavy glow, frame a progressive and edgy journey upwards into higher energetic states. The transition energy being greater with each step, we quickly find ourselves balancing on a heighty pinhead of musical force.
Mangled synths open the sixth number, their oddly angled journey and knotted individualities combine to form a punchy high reaching stab into the mists of uncertainty. Rhythms with extra melody crunch in like the teeth of time, masticating the bits too big to swallow. Synchronise Your Dogmas reminds us that all policy in the world is about social harmony and political cohesion. anything else is just unnecessary. Twisting beats with shifting sands of synthesiser bring a space infused chaos to the sonic toolkit of intentions. Manic branches of melody span into the air like the newly forming twigs on April trees, and birdsong glistens in the cloudy upper section as the newly flown in activity settles in the canopy of sound.
Not My Problem Not My Problem is a less than a minute reminder that this is also a way people feel. Unfortunately, so often one person's problem becomes another's and eventually, no matter how it's dressed, it comes knocking on your door too. Airy and sinister warbles of sound briefly garnish the album until they slink back into the shadows. And from here we meet Gloom Funk. Swirling chimneys of sound climb into the murky distance while tense rhythms cast an unfamiliar sense of adjusted reality. It's dark in here, and if we stay too long, we may end up as one of those giant factories in the distance, cold and lifeless yet full of bustle.
Next track is We Are All Earthlings. Including the tress and the flies, who knows if there's anything here that originated in outer-space? Maybe we all did, I mean, it's still unknown how self-replicating molecules formed and how they became sentient. One theory is that everything is sentient in its own right, and wants to be able to experience more deeply so naturally progresses towards intelligent life. What ever the situation may be, we are here and until we die, we have to make the most of it. What we do here is up to us, no-one signed a life contract that agrees to anything, but of course we do have consequences too and no matter what we do they will always arise. So lets plant positive everywhere, it's a good start. Not blind positive, where we close our eyes to the negative, but constructive positive which builds on what good there already is. We are all earthlings, after-all.
Track ten begins with melodic bells which remind me of a child's toy but in a newly found key. Twisting elements in the key bring on a wavering sensation that eventually brings on digital winds of static. These begin to drown all out in a torrent of chaotic flash flooding noise, until they dissipate into nothing, once again revealing just the bells. Nationality Is Coincidence is short and snappy, and a least from a non-Buddhist perspective, it's true. This peels away to reveal The Creation Of Ends, and it strikes a sombre tone with deep and thoughtful synths that dig down and down. A vocal sample cracks the sky like lightning, and it gives rise to a dancing beat. Tappy drums and interesting fills give an artistic quality to the sinister yet strangely pleasant composition. The track swells and progresses into a head heavy surge of sound and energy. It washes out all resistance to loving Steve's music, not that there was any for me, I know a good hook when I hear one.
Finishing with a tranquil feel, the second to last instalment takes us on a swooping journey through lush and colourful soundscapes. Give Me A Replay, I Can Work Harder sounds like a plea, however I feel like it's an acceptance that every day is a new start and what ever happened before is just the rehearsal. We of course can't expect people to forget their experiences of you but thankfully there's billions of new ones to get it better this time with. We are all human, after-all. Soaring melodics with feedbacking tone swirl into the dusty corners of our consciousness and remind us that we're still there. In amongst the clippings and sound-bytes, the black and white reruns and the misremembered sections, there's something real too. Something present, something now.
The album ends with Hope, and with a plucked melody and plunging electro-drums, we're greeted with a slow return to where we started yet this time with a little more insight on the global situation. Steve Hadfield has remarkably explored some of the biggest issues we face as global citizens and expressed his feelings through music. By listening we get to think on these things for ourselves, and if you're like me, write about your findings.
We Are All Human by Steve Hadfield is available on Bandcamp
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From the author: Alternative Fruit – Exploring the alternative arts scene and spreading knowledge around the world.
Also, you may enjoy Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music by David Stubbs
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