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Jim Haynes Magnetic North

Music In Review by Andrew Culler, Volume 06 / Issue 40, October 12, 2003

Jim Haynes is a San Francisco-based musician who has made a name for himself through work in the duo Coelacanth and in his travels as a solo sound-artist. The rich SF scene has no doubt provided Haynes with many opportunities to expand his listener-ship, and recently he has ventured eastward with an installation called Magnetic North appearing in Nashville and San Jose. This disc, the first release from The Helen Scarsdale Agency and limited to 300 copies, contains the audio portion of the installation, culled from performances of the last two years. The most striking quality of the music herein can inadequately be described as its organic nature. Haynes has produced four lengthy tracks, each composed entirely of beautiful drones, but drones with a distinctly homespun feel. Contained bell tones and gentle, metallic overtones leak into otherwise hollow, spacious drones that recall the oceanic spaces of Coelacanth's music. At times the listener feels outside, or underground, in a large breathing space, or in the same land that produced Walter Marchetti's cavernous recordings. Haynes has a way, however, of bringing his listener back to reality, back to the tool shed so to speak, as he introduces subtle incidental sounds into the mix. Evocative, even representative of everyday things that clatter, scrape, and squeak, the sound sources remain obscured, the sounds themselves never harsh or even disorienting. Not having seen the Magnetic North installation, I can only guess that it deals with issues of space and the unique transparencies between large and small environments. Haynes' music is accessible in a way that suggests his installation provides a womb-like atmosphere, comfortably merged with wider, harrowing spaces in an examination of the consistencies between the two. His music has neither the stoicism of Marchetti nor the bombast of drone guru Phill Niblock, but feels just right for Haynes' purposes. Though his work with Coelacanth may see him drifting to the outer limits, here Haynes keeps the windswept barrens just outside the door.