Now here’s an odd one. I discovered Huerco S. while perusing the Software label’s roster and I was immediately drawn to the bizarre face on the album cover. I figured “Hey, this is weird looking. I think I’ll like it.” Sure enough I did. In fact, it’s one of my favorite electronic music discoveries in some time.
So Huerco S. is someone named B. Leeds. What’s the “B” stand for? Billy? Bartholomew? Bob? Billy? Who knows. It could stand for Balloon for all I know. What I know for sure is that this cat makes some pretty interesting electronic music. Colonial Patterns is Leeds using his Kansas City origins as a backdrop to create this experimental, lo-fi, heady electronic music, and to incredible results. It’s not the typical, breakbeat, four on the floor kind of stuff you think of when you think of electronic music. Oh, you don’t think of that when you think of electronic music? I guess I’m the only one then. Anyways, it’s great stuff.
What’s it sound like? Well, when I’m listening to Colonial Patterns I get this feeling of ghosts. It’s like these songs are the ghosts of songs that once existed but have long since dissipated into the ether. These aren’t crisp songs, sonically. There’s a feeling of grit and time that covers them. It’s as if they’ve been entombed for years and someone came along and demolished the concrete and released these disembodied melodies and beats into the world. Brian(yeah, his name is Brian…I was voting for Bartholomew) Leeds is going the Boards of Canada route here and making electronic music that is nostalgic, but we’re not sure what they’re nostalgic for. BoC has this knack for tapping into our youthful melancholy by creating sounds and melodies we feel we’ve heard elsewhere, long ago before we knew what nostalgia or melancholy were. Huerco S.’ Colonial Patterns does that too, but without sounding like a caricature of Boards of Canada(like Tycho does.) Songs like “Struck With Deer Lungs”, “Quivira”, and “Monks Mound(Arcology)” feel like whispers from the past. They feel like these thoughts stuck in time and freed for us to hear. There’s still elements of techno and house here, but far more personal and abstract than what those genres usually offer. “Skug Kommune” feels like a MSTRKRFT song run through the washer and dryer one too many times. Faded, shrunken, and well-worn, it’s a sound you can’t let go of as it’s so comfortable.
I can’t explain what it is about this record that seems to hit me so hard. A couple of weeks ago on an afternoon run I was over at my favorite run/walk location. It’s a housing addition still in the stages of growth, so there’s a ton of open space. I find open space when I’m running or walking to be somewhat freeing and almost meditative. I was listening to Colonial Patterns on my headphones when I’d gotten to a spot in the neighborhood where there are no homes built yet. It’s just this quarter mile spot where it’s just trees and the promise of home-owning bliss. As I was walking the sun was beating down on me and the song “Anagramme of My Love” was playing in the headphones. It was pretty damn hot out that day, with the temps well into the upper 80s, and the sun felt as if it was mad as Hell at me and felt like it was pushing all it’s might on me. The song pulsating in my head, the sun beating down on my pale-ish neck it almost felt as if I was being pulled under into some daytime, asphalt abyss. For a moment it was as if I couldn’t even breathe. The music was as suffocating as the heat and sun. I turned the corner and it was as if someone had opened a vent and oxygen poured into my face and down my lungs. I’m not sure what happened, but it was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
Colonial Patterns is very much like that feeling. It’s both suffocating and exhilarating. It’s an album filled with these musical ghosts weaving in and out of lo-fi beats and muffled synthesizers. The songs are whispers and wheezes from musical ghosts and beat-driven specters. I guess I don’t mind the company of ghosts as long as they throw some air my way once in a while.