Filmed and edited by: Mollie Mills
Text: Aimee Cliff
The day I met Tri Angle-affiliated producer The Haxan Cloak in a cemetery was the day I fully realised the nuance and playful nature of his music, and of his ideas of lightness and darkness. That is, while it might seem all doom and gloom at first glance (“Why don’t we shoot this interview in a cemetery?” he suggested; “oh, sure!” we quivered), there’s a great deal of warmth in both his music and the way in which he talks about it. Although the press release for his second album, ‘Excavation’, will tell you that it explores the path of a soul as it journeys into the afterlife, and its artwork glares at you with all the looming threat of a swinging noose (it is actually a swinging noose), Bobby Krlic will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t necessarily see that as being a “dark” subject to explore.
As we stood among the gravestones and the RIPs, he told me frankly that his main wish for his listeners is that they have a “good trip”. Rather than forcing those who hear it to confront their own mortality, ‘Excavation’ is an exercise in removing the listener from their current place and taking them, not to a darker place, but just another place – an unknowable place, touched on ever-so-lightly by the free-roaming, almost childishly adventurous and curious structures of Bobby’s music. He talks about his album as a journey, and he does it with a smile. He wants you to “get into the head of this character…go on a journey and then come out and work out where you’ve been and what you’ve heard.”
It’s easy for him to be so optimistic, because he clearly had a lot of fun making this record. Describing the eight-foot gong that he got to work with, among other instruments, he emphasises his new-found role as a “sound designer”. “[‘Excavation’] is still very much rooted in acoustic instrumentation and field recordings, but it’s more about what happens when they’re inside the computer,” he says. “I get a very deep magnifying glass and apply that to the sound. I stretch stuff, take stuff apart and rearrange everything, until you’re left with something completely different to what actually went in. It’s more like an impressionist approach than the approach that I previously took on my last record.”
In the film above, Bobby talks more about the pressures he felt when he began work on the new LP, as well as his own interpretation of the optimism/pessimism of his subject matter and how his granddad’s wise advice played a part in it all. And there’s something about the overbearing bleakness of the Abney Park headstones he walks among – just like the swinging noose – that really seems like more of a knowingly over-played reference to the bleak symbolism of death in our culture rather than an easy visual link. Or at least, listening to the stomach-lurching swoops and bristling, ethereal newness of ‘Excavation’, that’s how it feels.