CD (E168)

“I grew accustomed from a very young age to hearing the
piano only at night. That was when my mother played it.
She would light four candles of the candelabra and played
notes so slowly and so separated by the silence that it was
as though she were also lighting, one by one, the sounds.”
—Fellisiberto Hernández, The Balcony

See also

Edition of 200 copies


I’d say that much of my fascination with the structure
of this album, in relation to its stasis bred materiality,
is that it makes me think that so much else is going
on beyond the threshold, and that what I’m hearing,
distinctly different from what I’m listening to in this
case, is the residual waste of process. The vagueness
of this conception only serves to heap more and more
fascination on how unusual the album is for me.

Patrick Farmer and Richard Pinnell
at The Field Reporter (part one)/part two

This latest offering from Haptic is a bit of a departure
It seems like (and I’ve since read statements to the
effect that it is) highly amplified sounds from still,
empty rooms, presumably several of them overlaid.
This is enough, really. It/they have their own rhythms,
general surges in, perhaps, distant traffic and the
comings and goings of high, electric whines perhaps
from the wiring in the walls or appliances and much
more. It’s a great landscape, endlessly interesting,
a surface gray that reveals an immense range of color.
  During my first listen, I was happily luxuriating in
this when I heard some very faint piano. Betsy was
in her room and I assumed she was listening to
France Culture on the radio and had neglected to
close the door. I got up to remedy the situation and,
in the course of taking steps in that direction, realized
the piano sounds had moved behind me and were
emanating from my speakers. One reviewer, I would
later read, cites the source as a neighbor practicing.
Maybe, but the spare, consonant, Feldman-esque
notes, all but buried in the wash of room tones,
would be almost too good to be true; I suspect
deliberate insertion. That first listen, though, when
all was mysterious, was spellbinding. And it remains
so, beautifully balanced and integrated, the piano
fading out of hearing from time to time, disappearing
entirely for a good stretch, just barely poking its
head in every so often. It's so faint I’m pretty sure
that, sometimes, I’m just imagining it there.
  The lone track retains its singular focus start to finish.
On the one hand, I was reminded of an old favorite
remark of Harry Partch re: one of his instruments,
the Blo Boy: “It does exactly one thing but that one
thing it does superbly”. But there’s more than one
thing going on here, tons more. It’s just funneled
so smoothly and with such confidence that it reads
as a solid entity but the complex wealth of details is
always right there, described by those ghost notes
from the keyboard. A stellar recording, really great,
another fantastic recording from one of my favorite

Brian Olewnick at Just Outside

This latest offering from Haptic is a bit of a departure
from previous releases. Until now their catalogue has
focused on layering textures on top of one another,
moulding them into rough, dense chunks of crackle
and hum. Their music was so physical, so material,
that listening to it was akin to running my fingertips
across a pebbly surface, trying to glean meaning
from a kind of nonsense Braille. Abeyance, how-
ever, feels like the negative impression left by those
textures — an absence or erasure. The album
contains one long track that on first listen could be
mistaken for nothing more than the hum of an empty
room. But as it proceeds, and one’s ears adjust to
the sound’s barely-there quality, the piece opens up
into a world easily as detailed and engrossing as the
trio’s heavier, louder material. From the room tone,
a quiet digital buzz emerges, barely rising above the
surface of the noise, and later a soft piano drifts into
the foreground, almost as if it’s being overheard from
a neighbouring apartment. It’s indescribably beautiful
and, despite the piano — the only recognisable instru-
ment featured on any Haptic recordings — somehow
the least musical work the trio has ever produced.

William Hutson in The Wire

Internet-enabled work-­sharing has evolved to the
point where it’s easy for musicians scattered all
over the country to make a record together that
sounds like they were all in the same room. But
when a member of Chicago-based experimental
trio Haptic moved to the west coast, they did the
opposite. Not only did each musician work on
Abeyance in isolation, they all took as their raw
material manifestations of separation and distance.
The 40'56" piece consists mostly of environmental
recordings — empty rooms in which the members
of Haptic live and other rooms that they’ve vacated,
a relative playing piano from a floor away — and
borderline subliminal electronic tones. The result
is a layering of hisses and hums that expresses
quite concretely the emptiness that ensues from
loss, yet paradoxically fills space with a barely
heard but strongly felt presence. It not only works
as ambient music; it’s music made from ambience.

Bill Meyer in The Chicago Reader

Minimalist Chicago trio return to Entr’acte with
a mesmerising 40 minute study of whispering keys
and crackling lower case noise. But don’t get it
twisted — this is not some beige modern classical,
nor is it a rough copy of Basinski’s Disintegration
Loops — it’s perhaps best compared to a location
recording of Morton Feldman duetting with an
industrial air vent at midnight in a breezy and
secluded location. The first quarter of the piece
is used to shape the surroundings, an ether of
wispy drones and distant, slowly modulating tones
before the keys make their incredibly modest
appearance, remaining a tantalising yet intangible
presence almost drifting forth as though carried
by the breeze. The proceeding 30 minutes evolve
with incremental stealth, keys hover on the brink
of silence, flickering like candles against a breath
of wind as the near static atmosphere increment-
ally builds with the imperceptible developments
comparable with an Eliane Radigue piece or the
microscopic focus of a Jakob Ullmann composition.
Quite simply, barely anything happens, but it’s
a totally engrossing experience all the same.