Tenth Oar EP






Hanetration contacted me via email this March and asked if I would like to review his Tenth Oar EP. After pre-listening to the first two tracks, I was more than willed to prepare a review of this mysterious artist about whom is not much known. He (or she?) is hailing from London and is capable of coming up with delicious drone sounds that are intertwined with curious synth setups and instruments that aren't too common in the genre. The 4-track EP is a so-called showcase EP: more important than a golden thread is the diversity of styles, moods and settings, for most artists want to be present in different circles and reach a growing audience. The variety is most definitely not caused by the pseudo-psychological fact of an artist who hasn't found his voice or path yet. In fact, each track is richly textured, concentrates on a certain mood and never strays away or breaks the atmosphere with unnecessary gimmickry. Such being the case, you either like the depicted aura of a certain song, or you don't. Let me tell you in advance that Hanetration succeeds and delivers a highly interesting EP with two killer tracks, at least to my mind. At time of writing this review, you can download the Tenth Oar EP for free at his Bandcamp page. Without further ado, here is a detailed analysis of the 4 tracks.

Rex is the starting point and features a distinct Oriental setting that reminds me of Alejandro Franov's track Sudan off his 2007 debut Khali, at least in regard to its beginning. Sizzling hot but tense flutes form a tasteful accompaniment to weirdly chopped and sped-up voices whose ramblings cannot be recognized or decrypted anymore. After 30 seconds, a gorgeously glinting monotonous synth string is introduced, while things are turned up a notch with distorted Jungle-like beats and buzzing drones that grow larger. The bright synth string is still perceptible, but its significance wanes and intertwines with the predominant, trembling buzz. The metallic percussion fades out, and Rex returns to Ambient realms in its last minute, suddenly unveiling a layer of an acoustic guitar that was barely audible in the percussion-driven hecticness, plus an additional twinkling synth line. The track ends on a majestically euphonious note by offering an encore of the Oriental mood and the unison of the aforementioned synth glints. If there is something wrong with this first track – hint: there isn't – it could be unison of an Ambient atmosphere with staccato percussion and clarion drone buzzes, thus bewildering club-oriented fans as well as Ambient and drone lovers who could be put off by Rex's middle section. This, however, is an academical discourse which I try to avoid enlarging upon, for there is no perfect track that suits everyone's taste. I for one like the Oriental flavor and the cherubic brightness of the synths as well as the clarion cymbals. A terrific entry! The same can be said about the following Alarm which presents a totally different, acroamatic and more introverted atmosphere similar to a darker Gas track. Multitextured synth layers create a totally relaxing mood. The layers vary in their aesthetics: there is a foggy, mystical layer, a complementing temple gong synth that is pulsating gently and a dark bass drone whose impetus causes a pleasantly vibrant ambience. A repetitive one-note synth pad – possibly the alarm that is mentioned in the title – adds a somewhat nervous counterpoint to the whirling cocktail and is later modulated, then consisting of several notes that form a vestigial melody. This is a proper Ambient track, and the drones aren't stressful, but strangely soothing and foggy. Another great result and possibly the strongest piece, most harmonious piece for pious Ambient fans.

Rufus is for fans of the IDM and Clicks & Cuts genre, again offering a hugely interesting intermixture of elements you don't encounter often in Ambient music: a stern synth bagpipe is pompously meandering all the while a slightly blurry percussion adds a rhythmical element to the setting. Hidden buzzes and trembling drones enter, but they disguise their presence and merge perfectly with the endemic mood. Yet again does Hanetration create the juxtaposition of two different moods, namely the majesty and ancient tradition of the bagpipe on the one hand and the increasing tension due to the drones and the percussion on the other hand. The bagpipe – or Moog synthesizer? – might be a strong letdown to a lot of listeners, but since it is so seldomly used nowadays, it is another remarkable track in Hanetration's roster. The final tune is called Wreck and offers an authentic depiction of gloomy, blurred medium wave frequencies that oscillate all the time and thus bring an organic feeling to the track: at times, the waves howl eerily but change to harmonious tone sequences shortly afterwards. All the time a crisp and gentle percussion loop is added, and depending on your viewpoint and view, you either feel lost or right at home in these analog waves. It is the most gentle percussive element on the whole EP and is the last audible piece.

Calling Hanetration's Tenth Oar EP a dark debut is definitely wrong. It is clear, though, that it isn't bright either. I would describe the evoked mood of all 4 pieces as dusky, gloomy, foggy and vespertine, the only incisively bright inclusion being the aforementioned glistening synth strings of Rex; both this track and Alarm are hence my favorite pieces of the varied EP. While Rex features an Oriental scheme, Alarm displays a foggy, mystical atmosphere complete with temple gongs. Rufus is keen on delivering a clichéd Celtic or Scottish aura with its bagpipe, and Wreck offers the blurry warmth of middle wave radio frequencies and crunchy beats. The variety is the huge plus of the Tenth Oar EP, though I have to admit that I cannot yet pinpoint that special Hanetration sound which is adamantly linked to the pseudonym. Since this EP is an aural showroom in terms of the artist's knowledge and skills, the varied soundscapes are important in the end. And since the Tenth Oar EP is free at time of writing, it is a formidable gateway of the things to come. I for one am looking forward to more – preferably foggy – Ambient tunes by Hanetration. A strong debut that due to its variety cannot please everyone, but shows both the wealth of ideas and the aesthetic values of this mysterious artist.


Further reading:

Hanetration now has a brand-new Facebook page – so there are definitely more things to come.




Ambient Review 050: Hanetration – Tenth Oar EP (2012). Originally published on Mar. 21, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.