The level to which independent music draws my adoration is unquestionable, but it’s always an absolute, additional pleasure to discover a band or artist who are doing their own thing entirely, and crushing it in the best possible way.
Hauglum are a band who appear at first without labels, without genre walls surrounding them; without anything that gives away the essence of their sound. You simply have to press play and listen to know what they’re about. Builders is a stunning collection of songs, beginning with Go On and winning you over immediately. This soundscape of cinematic audio samples, enhanced and illuminated by the gentle and expressive sound of the leading vocalist and the gorgeously calming ambiance of the musicianship. Something unheard of emerges, and though it grabs you for its unusual nature, it holds you captive for its poetry and the sheer depth of its emotion.
Effective songwriting often expresses what are perhaps common or very human ideas but from an unpredictable or unfamiliar perspective. Approaching the subjects from a new angle, one that intrigues, and this is something you get in high doses throughout this release. After You’ve Gone is the perfect example. Once again, the artistry of the soundscape is free from the confines of genre or societal standards for what music should be, and so this intrigues and surprises an otherwise unsuspecting audience. Then once you adjust to the rhythm and relevance of these sounds, you witness and connect with the songs – the melodies, the riffs, the organic elements of the instrumentation, and the raw emotion of the lyrics.
Hauglum’s leading vocalist presents these melodies and concepts in a gentle and easy to believe manner. There’s a humble or subtle nature to the performance, expressing the change from the mellow to the intense by means of an additional vocal and a slight change in notes – as opposed to spreading yourself far too thinly to reach some unnecessary peak. Imagine encapsulates this. The lyrics are bizarre and beautiful, poetic and new, considerate and provocative. The hook is incredible and it grows stronger with each and every appearance.
Stay Up Late lowers the mood to mellow for a moment. The ambiance here is smooth and seductive, perhaps even haunting. The music is stylish and the leading vocal features some beautifully addictive qualities that effortlessly win your attention. This song has so much space surrounding the melody, it hits with impact because the levels are so minimal – the emotion is raw, the lyrics confront you, and the storytelling is all at once separate and connected with you as a listener. It’s a distant tale, but it’s spoken directly for you. The sense of humanity and realness is overwhelming, and the effect is wonderful.
The EP comes to a close with the title track, but things by no means fizzle out to finish. Everything you’ve come to familiarize yourself with returns; the sound is familiar, yet strange and unknown. The spoken word aspect of this song moves you to truly consider the concept of the collection. The reflective storytelling offers all of the above and more – the poetry, the ambiance, the unexpected sounds, the artistry, the creativity, the Tom Waits reference.
The intensity of this final track builds in a powerful and mesmerising manner. The words demand that you listen, to the point that you’re keen to listen to the whole project over again to re-gather all of those ideas and try to make better sense of it. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, this saxophone solo smashes into your consciousness, the music surrounds you, and the moment is incomparably bold yet undeniably peaceful. It’s a huge way to finish, and the band are the very best kind of creative. Absolutely worth exploring.