There are few musicians working today that are as consistently great as east coast musician/composer Timothy Fife. I discovered him thru his synth duo Victims, and their wonderful Form Hell 10 inch release from 2016. Fife followed that up in 2017 with his Death Waltz/Mondo solo debut Black Carbon(Form Hell was also a Death Waltz release.) While the Victims ep was a heavy Komische/Berlin School banger that bubbled up like an Edgar Froese/Klaus Schulze double header from 1976, Black Carbon opened up to ambient vibes and noisier musical avenues. In my mind, Black Carbon hoisted Fife up as one of the premier musical minds working in the electronic/experimental worlds today.
Besides those two releases, Fife does all kinds of collaboration work and compilation contributions. Death Waltz/Mondo, Spun out of Control, Burning Witches Records and Polytechnic Youth are just a few labels he’s worked with. Last year, Fife did a re-imagining live score to the ‘Hoichi The Earless’ portion of Kwaidan at a Holodeck Records-curated event during last year’s SXSW. If you were able to attend it was an amazing coming together of audio and visual delights. If you weren’t, there’s probably some Youtube videos you can check out at your lunch break. Or, thanks to the folks at Lighten Up Sounds Records, you can hear the hour+ set in all its amazing glory in the comfort of your own home/car/office/basement vibes room complete with beanbag chair and mini-fridge.
Hoichi The Earless is waiting to blow your mind. Let’s begin.
Like all recently graduated video store clerks I was a curious lad. I started digging thru the back room where all the old betamax tapes sat to die at the video shop I worked at. I still had a working Toshiba Betamax tape player, so all those old Beta tapes were at my disposal. Fellini, Bergman, Altman, Ashby, and Scorsese were all located among piles of About Last Night, Short Circuit, and “Brat Pack” garbage. Kwaidan was not one of those Betamax tapes I found in the storage room of Video World, but I did see Kwaidan years later(that curiosity for the new and mind-expanding has never left me.) Kwaidan was a visual delight and a group of ghost stories unlike any you have seen. The imagery of Japanese cinema has always been some of the most alluring, and Timothy Fife does Hoichi justice.
Timothy Fife, over the course of ten individual parts ranging from just over two minutes to over eleven minutes, builds overwhelming musical landscapes that capture the ghostly feel of the story. While capturing the magic of Kwaidan, Fife also creates his own lore by building from the earthly and otherworldly story and taking it to new and cosmic heights.
The music ranges from ambient swaths of synths to more harder edged electronics to noise patches that would scare a samurai ghost back to the nether world. “Part One” blows in like a sonic breeze, filled with both dread and wonderment. It has the expanse and denseness of Phaedra, while still staying in the background so as not to take away from what you would be seeing on the big screen. “Part Three” wavers and breathes like the awakening of some ancient beast. “Part Five” is over eleven minutes of heavy Komische. At times it puts me in mind of Daniel Lopatin’s earlier output, mixing electronic psychedelia with a new age vibe. “Part Seven” builds from ominous beginnings.
What would a re-scoring of a ghost story be without ominous vibes?
Of course Timothy Fife is not a one-note kind of composer, so things morph and evolve and expand to something even greater than it began. “Part Ten” is musical resolution. It’s a glorious achievement in terms of sonics and poised compositional precision. A genuinely stunning finale.
Timothy Fife continues to build upon his work and expound and expand on it. His re-scoring of “Hoichi The Earless” gives us what we would expect, and yet so much more we wouldn’t. Hoichi The Earless works as an electronic masterworks in heavy synth, ambient, and Berlin School wanderings, as well as one hell of a soundtrack to a ghost story.
Hoichi would approve.
8.5 out of 10