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Jim Haynes The Decline Effect

Textura.org, November 2011

     "I rust things." This pithy statement of purpose by San Francisco Bay Area artist Jim Haynes (also the director of the non-profit sound art organization 23five) opens the doors to an understanding of his approach and work, the latest example of which is documented in a double-album vinyl set packaged in a beautiful gatefold sleeve (limited to 350 copies). Electroacoustic soundsculpting of a resolutely uncompromising and experimental kind, Haynes' recording uses decay and corrosion as springboards for four long-form settings birthed from broken electronics, shortwave radio static, contact microphones, tape decay, controlled feedback, textural scrapings, and manipulated field recordings. While his is an entropic art centering on notions of collapse and disintegration, it's also one rich with ravishing detail and as such commands one's attention for the full measure of its seventy-six minutes.
     "Ashes" presents twenty minutes of crackling embers, corrosive textures, and grinding machine noise through which a droning swarm threads itself. Advancing and receding throughout, the droning mass exudes a ghostly character, and appears never more haunted than when the muffled murmur of voices moves to its forefront during the piece's second half. Ghostlier still is "Cold," in which Haynes uses harmonics and overtones from various wire recordings to create a spacious, hollowed-out meditation—until, that is, the relative quietude is disrupted by a stabbing smear of distortion and grime that sounds like it could have originated from a guitar. An intended approximation of radioactive decay, "Half-Life" adds a rhythm dimension to the recording in the form of a geiger counter-generated gallop that quietly trots alongside an ongoing stream of cavernous whooshes and crystalline creaks. Sourced in part from thermal vents and geysers at Lassen Volcanic National Park, "Terminal" concentrates on gurgles and hiss for its first eight minutes, after which the hiss abruptly falls away and then returns at varying levels of intensity, sometimes so forcefully it drowns out the geological activity, until the collective mass reaches a climactic broil. As should be patently obvious, the four sides offer a diverse wealth of sound, with pretty much all of it sourced from natural and industrial realms rather than conventional instrumentation.
     It hardly surprises that, before turning to sound art, Haynes was a visual artist whose works incorporated materials such as wood, paper, metal, photographs, and glass. Of especial note is the fact that he grew sensitive to the decaying properties inherent in photography and thus transposed that sensitivity into other areas in order to explore entropy in general and the relationship between time and erosion. For Haynes, transformation and thus decay are both omnipresent and inevitable, if largely invisible to the naked eye, and his works address such themes at multiple levels—literally, in the settings' ever-mutating surfaces, and conceptually, too. In these four pieces, Haynes finds the beauty in decomposition and translates it into a soundsculpting style that's uniquely his.