Steve Hauschildt makes music for the uncynical. ‘Strands’, his 4th album proper, isn’t far removed something you’d hear in a yoga studio, or that crystal shop in your neighbourhood that always smells like sandlewood.
As with his former band, Emeralds, his best work has always come in the tracks that are purely, unapologetically beautiful, and it’s this warmth, this knack for simple, appealing melody that goes some way to countering his spare, minimal sound. Like the best of the ‘chill-out’ music that came with house music in the 1990’s (a clear reference point for his solo work up to this point) his music has an unashamed prettiness to it. He doesn’t seem remotely concerned by the fickle tastes of the electronic scene, instead he’s carved himself a place in it that he’s come to dominate and define. For fans of blissed out, happily aimless and unpretentiously lovely IDM, Hauschildt is absolutely worth your time.
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Unlike his former band mate Mark McGuire, who has gone on to make the kind of soaring, stirring guitar music that Emeralds always seemed to be on the cusp of making, Hauschildt has used his output since their split to create something far quieter, more patient and thoughtful. If you’ve listened to a Steve Hauschildt album in the past then you’re probably familiar with his sound. His sound takes the gentle synth pads and arpeggiated melodies of classic IDM to create music that is at once profoundly uncool and undeniably lovely. There are times when these tracks veer into New Age territory, but to dismiss his music on those terms would be unfair, if only because he’s able to wring so much feeling out of those sounds and structures that were once so ubiquitous.
Not unlike Oneohtrix Point Never, his contemporary and past collaborator, Hauschildt has this knack of latching onto a phrase so simply and purely lovely that he can’t bring himself to progress from it. A track like ‘Time We Have’ could span a full length LP and not outstay it’s welcome, but equally this can lead to moments that feel a little undeveloped, even dull, as with the title track, or the morose ‘Transience of Earthly Joys’ (did I mention this is New Age music?). You can forgive this, however, when you consider that this is Hauschildt’s 4th album in as many years, a creative stretch encompassing some 100 tracks over various releases. When an artist is as prolific as Hauschildt is, an album becomes less of a definitive statement than it is an update on their progress. His sound hasn’t changed an awful lot over these past five years, instead he’s gotten better in his judgement. The track lengths have decreased and the melodies are sharper. If you’re an Emeralds fan, or simply a fan of ambient music looking for an entry point into Hauschildt’s solo output, then Strands, his most focused, concise work yet, is the place to start.