CD HMS 001
By Kevin Macneil Brown
The enigmatic, evocative nature of Magnetic
North begins with the packaging: a paper insert, hand-made, seemingly
soaked in a watercolor-like wash of what appears to be rust or spilled
coffee or some sort of industrial lubricant. As it turns out, all
this provides subtle clues to the nature of the music.
Minimal notes state that the disc contains the audio program to an
installation with the same name - Magnetic
North; and this music does indeed seem to be part of something
all-encompassing: visual, sensory, exploratory. There are the sounds
of hollow, ferrous, metallic clanging in muffled, muted, sonic space;
half-heard short wave radio signals and utterances; scratchings of
static and random noise, sudden shifts after long drones, eruptions
of occasional silence. These sounds unfold and, despite their apparent
affinity with decay and distant industrial clangor, bloom in the auditory
vista with a surprisingly gentle and organic beauty.
The textural palette and the underlying musical architecture here
are sometimes similar to those of other works within the art music,
dark ambient, and experimental genres. But Haynes invests his compositions
with a refreshing clarity, a hands-on, Musique Concrete, found-sound
ethos that adds much to the unique resonance of the work.
Repeated listening brings new dimensions to these pieces; an initial
sense of stark and foreboding coldness gives way to the sort of intangible
but insistent emotionality found in the later, holographic works of
composer Morton Feldman, or in the long, slow-moving, abstract visual
constructions that appear as mysterious icons in the films of Andrei
Among the possible scenarios that Magnetic North brings up
for me is this one: a person stands alone on an isolated beach, finding
on the shoreline stones and driftwood and countless unrecognizable
sun-bleached and sea-rusted artifacts that have washed up. He or she
arranges these objects at the tide line, carefully, but with no particular
conscious reason in mind.
The assembly of elements resulting from these gestures of the arranger
and organizer may be universal in its simplicity, unknown and unknowable
in its intent. But upon another person, walking the beach, finding
it later, it may well have an intensely profound and personal effect.