STAHV by STAHVRelease date: December 15, 2017
Label: Forbidden Place Records
And as the windswept steppes began to ebb, a green forestal tide began to rise, until you are surrounded by a cathedral of trees. The nettles on the ground were wet with dew, and the birds were speaking their own language. You could almost make out individual words among their chirps and wingshudders. Every utterance within the forest found itself on the razor’s edge of meaning, spectrally powerful, spooling out yarns that maybe someday could be understood precisely in their incomprehensibility. It reminds you of your own heartbeat.
Some of the best music makes you feel precisely this strange romantic notion, putting you in a place that existentially lies somewhere in the between, perhaps akin to what Jacques Derrida called a hauntology or what Roland Barthes identified as a state of disreality. Time ceases to be measured by clocks here, and you’re aware of your own status as a being that comes into being and passes away simultaneously just like the notes of music – on the edge of meaning yourself.
I’m not sure if STAHV’s self-titled album is all the way there yet, but it comes rather close. It occupies a neat little niche between post-rock, desert rock, and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, with wide open spaces that nevertheless allow you to feel the claustrophobia of an old growth forest. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mastermind and sole player Ari Rosenschein hails from the northwest, then.
If all of these sound like they are leading up to a comparison to Earth’s forays into Americana-tinged doom, you’re at least partially right. There’s a heavy Earth influence. But what Rosenschein does here is far from a copy. It creates its own world, not least because of its heavy use of soundscapes, which envelop the listener in a truly intriguing musical world, where you aren’t exactly sure what will happen next. The central tension of this album is between these droning undercurrents and the melodic fragments that lie atop. It instantiates a quite excellent push-pull that is reminiscent of the experience of listening to music in a wild environment, where the background sonic radiation of all the natural sounds always threaten to drown out whatever human melody seeks to threaten it.
Safe to say, I rather like this album. The execution of all of these ideas is excellent, and I’m always thrilled when a band wears its eclecticism on its sleeve. However, the music still seems bound by more traditional compositional strictures and its influences and, when taken all together, it can get tiresome; in order to really sort of reach the sort of romantic philosophical ideal I laid out at the beginning of this review, I’d like to see something more unhinged in the future, more natural, more itself. This isn’t yet one of the most interesting projects out there yet, but it has the potential to be.