The Decline Effect
Music In Review by Creaig Dunton
Following up 2009's Sever, this double LP follows a similar blueprint to that album, here spread across four long tracks. As a piece of sound art, each of these four pieces sound completely distinct from one another, but unified by Haynes’ simply wonderful use of tactile sonic textures that make his work so brilliant. Each of these side-long pieces have different concepts and sources, but they work together. Linked through the use of various tape decay effects, contact mics, and field recordings, the finished project is a wonderfully cohesive suite of compositions.
"Ashes," originally part of a project to rescore two films, Jump Rope and Silent Snow, Secret Snow, appears with further work completed. A pastiche of deep, hollow ambience and crunchy, static-laden sounds, it is the most minimal of the pieces. It shifts into a decidedly darker realm with deep, harrowing passages of sound and bizarre, alien textures as it slithers to its conclusion. Again working in sparser pastures, "Terminal," is sourced from a series of thermal vent and geyser recordings, resulting in a hiss-laden piece that somewhat resembles a cheap blank cassette played at maximum volumes. The distant geological rumbles and rattles make its pedigree clear, as does the white noise and rushing water that make the dying moments of the track some of the harshest on the record.
The two compositions on the second LP are noticeably different than those that precede it, focusing less on expansive ambience and more on carefully shaped and molded tones. "Half-Life," for example, showcases Haynes' love of gurgling, tactile sounds, and they're paired with constant, shimmering tones that carefully oscillate between shrill and beautiful. "Cold" once again utilizes the glistening tonal passages that "Half-Life" did, and makes them the centerpiece, resembling the hypnotic drones of the best Organum. With the occasional jarring outburst of shortwave radio static, it feels very dynamic, which becomes even more evident towards the end, where the sound is layered to a thick, gauzy cloud that demands attention without being too much.
Haynes' fondness for organic, breathing sonic textures that can be felt as easily as they can be heard is what initially attracted me to his work, and it's a trait that can be heard throughout The Decline Effect. His compositions reach beyond this, however, and the juxtaposition of expansive ambient drone on the first LP and the carefully shaped tones on the second solidify the brilliance here. The Decline Effect is of the best pieces of sound art this year, easily.