Somnambule - Writing About Music

Hat Melter ~ Unknown Album

The Hat Melter cd came in a plain envelope with minimal details. Lacking visual clues I decided to break an old habit and read the promotional sheet of A4 paper which accompanied the release. The rest of this review is conducted in resistance to the suggestions made therein.

It’s a bit like the instruments are doing their own thing, especially the loud crash bang thing, it’s a bit like a magical world, a children’s thing where all the instruments come alive. I like it. It’s quite charming.

The unknowing listener might wonder if Hat Melter's Unknown Album is the result of free improvisation or of some finely detailed studio composition. In fact it is both - improvised sessions subjected to some serious transformations in post-production.
Disjointed snatches of strings, clattering percussion, electronic bleeps and other noises make their rapid entrance and exit, though I'm hard pressed to firmly identify all the sources. Percussive sounds suggest rusty old gates, mice scuttling in wall-cavities, an old reprographic machine, a gunshot. The cellos wheeze, judder, shriek, drone.
There is a suppressed excitement - a brief scrape across strings, a breath, a chord, cut short. A cymbal resounds for a second but is immediately dampened. The effect is claustrophobic, but deeply engaging. Several times a cathartic crescendo builds, but the sound is always well controlled. The result is a challenging and enjoyable record, and an original development for improvised music.

Tune 1. Orchestral tuning before a concert. Nursery age children of musicians have a go with the parents’ instruments. A thread of sound begins to tie the now noticeably rhythmic practice notes together. Ah, this is Dada-esque... Someone pulls the plug out of the microphone. It starts again... disappointingly without crescendo. More of the same. Don't like.
Tune 2. More recognisable as deliberate efforts to interact with each other. This is not a practice. Almost harmonious but without a melody. The perpetual workings of a clock without the case, hands or face, satisfyingly churning away without a recognisable interface to read the time. Dali is now having an influence on the would-be timepiece... Like.

Colin Buttimer, Isobel Willetts, Dan Cartwright, Brett Bennett
Colin Buttimer
July 2003
Published by the BBC