Steve Hauschildt will be familiar to any Emeralds fans as one of the trio behind the lauded, abundantly busy outfit (who are also releasing a new album in November). On this solo outing Hauschildt follows a string of limited cassettes and CD-Rs with a new foray into synthesiser music – this time courtesy of Kranky, promising a wider physical availability than usual for listeners.
Tragedy & Geometry subscribes to the ongoing revival of kosmische, new age and other exploratory and modular synth music of the '70s and '80s, and I doubt many anticipated otherwise. What is often interesting about all the retrospective trends of current pop culture artistry is the aesthetic, conceptual or ontological selectivity of hindsight that results in era-hybridising styles; you get a lot of variation, both in appeal and prescribed essence. "Revival" becomes something of a vague category when the revived, or the act of reviving, occupy only small or particular roles in the work, on a creative scale which trickles all the way down to pastiche and outright reproduction.
In Tragedy & Geometry, Hauschildt’s style is pretty varied throughout the fifty-nine minutes. Yet it is generally "traditional", to the extent that I actually know what the term designates in a grouping of music regarding whose historical development I have no real expertise. Suffice it to say that there are no untamed moments to be heard here: the cosmos of new age imagery is connoted in glittering arpeggios, spacey leads and the folds and curves of obligatory envelopes, all of which arranged together in ways you will have heard (or almost heard) before somewhere, at some point. Hauschildt’s project gently embraces these tropes rather than steering the synthesiser towards more abstract avenues of cross-referencing and tastes (cf. Keith Fullerton Whitman, Bee Mask et al).
The album’s greatest strength is that there are no real grand pretensions at play; it’s a remarkably gentle work, contrasting with some of the noisier, guitar-suffused Emeralds moments. Working alone, Hauschildt’s sound is for the most part a little less dense, permitting tastefully serene – but still dextrous – arrangements. For a working environment gruesomely prone to self-conscious cheesiness he (needless to say) handles it quite well, managing to bait real beauty out of his hardware. The sense of melody as well as texture is rather developed; the second track ‘Batteries May Drain’ is half-driven by a beat of paper-like consistency which hangs over a rich pattern of close-knit channels. There are other variations between cinematic melancholy (‘Already Replaced’, ‘Blue Marlin’), muffled interludes (‘Cupid’s Dart’ and ‘Arche’) and fuzzy leads (‘Peroxide’, ‘Overnight Venusian’). There is also a slow-burner, ‘Music for a Moire Pattern’, during which an ebb-flow movement analogises the namesake, giving the climax time to build. For me the prettiest moment is ‘Allegiance’, a fragile cluster of warbling, bubbling arpeggios atop thick, intermittent swells – and just below them an airy murk of vocals.