Let me start by stating for the record that Chris Haugen is an artist i think of in very high regard. He plays guitar, lap steel and most importantly to all us here the weissenborn, and more to the point still, he plays it with a sublime deft touch that borders on genius level.
The man is a perverbial walking cinematic soundscape instrumentalist machine. This release is fundamentally an hours worth of the most relaxing, zen enhancing slide soundscapes you're ever likely to hear. Keep it simple, keep it clean and left the sustain do the talking. Simple is one of THE hardest things to get right. To pick that single note and to hold it perfectly for just the length of time before you blend another perfect note into it is a skill not many people can pull off to this high exacting level.
The use of dreamy synthetic drones and swirly synthasiszed soundscapes in the background are the perfect canvas for Chris to fluidly improvise over the top. In doing so he seemingly drifts away into an almost zen like trance. As a keen practitioner of yoga he understands how to relax and 'let go' I guess and these tunes echo this laid back lifestyle that he leads living by the Californian Gold Coast. With a pedigree in professional cinematic compositions, soundtrack collaborations and the creator of a previous yoga style release “Music For Yoga” back in 2013 this release is honed to perfection to create maxim relaxation and calm positive vibes. You can’t help feeling relaxed and chilled out as you hear these beautiful compositions played out in your head as you imagine vivid distant landscapes.
Technically this isn't an album but a long playing EP, and contains seven tracks ranging from shorter 4:30 passages to over 15 minute opuses. There is an alluring cohesive fluid nature to the running order but each track still maintains its own individual ident. But it has to be said there is a strong indian influence present though all proceedings through the use of Indian tabla drums and sitar shimmer guitar FX that gets stronger the further you get into the CD.
Breaking the tracks down in a little more detail we start off with “Nautilus” which is very much in the vain of his amazing 2008 lap steel release “ Seahorse Rodeo” so much so i would guess it was a distant leftover from the same sessions if i were a betting man, either way what I’m trying to say is its pretty damn good stuff right from the off and bang on the cinematic zen theme. “Smooth As Glass” has a gentle oceanic ebb and flow to its demeanour. The waves of drones and melodic starkness conjure up delightful soothing visions of idilic remote beaches far, far away, pure bliss filled sonic creativity.
“Falling Water” is a monster track coming in at over a wopping 15 minutes! layered reverberating drones and staccato plucking bordering on delta blues in places create a deep brooding undercurrent that gives the track a darker, more forbidding edge to proceedings. “Spring” has a hazy mellow Indian style vibe with its use of tabla drums and and a sitar shimmer effect on the sliding passages.
“Western Yogi” has to my own personal annoyance a banjo on it which adds variety i guess to proceedings but actually jolts you out of the zen trance you had been comfortably enjoying. The track continues the indian theme with droning sitar sympathetic strings echoing the banjo passages, tastefully done of course but it doesn’t sit right with the rest of the tracks in my opinion. “Eternal Pipeline” has the first resemblance to a recurring melody within. Up to now it has all been tasteful randomness but the refrain here is delightful and very much welcomed each time it comes back around in the track.
The last track “Reef” is a pure slide reverie. With a drop of desolate delta blues and summertime acoustic guitar and weissenborn refrains the track dances in and out of a tasteful pitch bending drone soundscape. The combination of these three elements are unusual and very pleasing on the ears, so much so that i think its my favourite track on the CD.
This release doesn't break any boundaries or frontiers musically speaking but that's NOT what this cd is all about. It's about doing the simple things with a pristine clean cut technique that in its self is its USP. Chris operates on a level most of us can only dream about attaining, these tranquil outpourings are tasteful, professional and a down right dream for any lap steel fan.
Chris Haugen "Falling WaterShimmering Strings"
Review By Aron Radford
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