Label: Truthseeker Music
Loosely falling under the umbrella of post-rock, the debut release from Haunts is a haunting half hour, that uses some of the expected tropes of post-rock – chiefly, spacious soundscapes and emotion expressed through instrumental movements rather than words – but does so in a way that doesn’t feel as if it’s conforming to any rule-book or standard of expectations. Rather than the traditional quiet-loud passages, A Lack of Empathy is instead all about subtle shifts within a largely consistent atmosphere, making this record one to loose yourself within for extended periods, undertaking psychedelic explorations that are as emotionally cathartic as they are sonically thrilling.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Haunts’ sound becomes quickly apparent once the psychedelic introduction to opener ‘Creep Pulse’ is done – namely, the violin of Dalma Gebe. They add the most nakedly emotional aspect to A Lack of Empathy, granting it an immediate accessibility, with the violin melodies being pushed forward in the mix, driving the songs along. They add an almost folk feel to the record, granting it an earthiness and sense of place that contrasts beautifully with the more free-roaming nature of much of the rest of the music. This feel is strongest during the closing minutes of ‘Crux’, which feels simultaneously mournful and celebratory, full of longing and love, yet also a profound sense of loss. It is a wonderful contrast, and deeply cathartic.
Not that the album starts in such a grounded manner. The opening moments of ‘Creep Pulse’ are built upon psychedelic drones and shimmering dub reggae guitars, and move with a sense of direction that suggests cosmic journeys and explorations of the unknown will be offered by A Lack of Empathy. It’s once the violins take the lead that the true nature of the record becomes apparent. What’s remarkable is that they do so in so subtle a manner, that the listener is unaware of the change until after it has already happened – there’s no singular moment where the music shifts from one feeling and atmosphere to another, but instead it slowly and gradually morphs. The nature of this change is superb, and it’s to the credit of all involved with Haunts that it feels so natural and is so effective.
In a lot of ways, A Lack of Empathy doesn’t feel like you would expect a post-rock album to feel; there’s a notable absence of typical quiet-loud transitions, and the sound of Haunts owes a lot to instruments not traditionally associated with rock music (the violins; the psychedelic pulses). Yet, despite this, its emotional impact is every bit as strong and cathartic as you’d hope for from an album associated with the genre; and its atypical instrumentation gives it a sense of character and unique identity that instrumental music can often lack. It’s a hugely impressive record, and another fine release from Truthseeker Music.