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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Adam Hardcastle - Stille

Adam Hardcastle - Stille

Adam Hardcastle is musician, composer, student and teacher based in Victoria, Australia. Previously located in Adelaide, Hardcastle composed music for numerous films and musical theater while there. Along the way, Hardcastle has played WOMAD and Big Day Out, toured extensively and had regular gigs around Adelaide. These days music is more of a social exercise; more about getting together to play, write and record with friends. To that end, Hardcastle decided to take some of the material he'd written for other projects years before and recast them as an organic whole. The resulting album is called Stille, and the six songs offered therein all have one common connector: Hardcastle wrote them while traveling. Hardcastle has some talented friends along for the ride: Jed Palmer - percussion (Bergerac); Todd Hutchinson - bass (We All Want To); Dan Pash - clarinet (Leader Cheetah); Gerry Masi - chants (Lucifer's Lounge) and cellist Natasha Darke all help craft the unique and melancholy sound of Stille.

Stille opens with "Summer Afternoon", a musical contemplation of personal histories, broken hearts and the failure we all suffer in seeing how to connect the dots. This could be a song written from the midst of heartbreak, but has a much older feel, like a lingering heartbreak that you worry over for years. "Summer Afternoon" is steeped in its own sense of depression and desperation as the narrator continues to search for an answer, one he hopes (secretly otherwise) will lead to reconciliation. "The Sky's The Same" is like aboriginal hip-hop filtered through the musical lens of Pink Floyd; Hardcastle points out that despite the distances and differences of people we all live underneath the same sky; whether this is a practical or philosophical observation is left to the listener to divine.

Hardcastle takes Beat Poetry into the baroque parlor with bass, Theremin, cello and percussion on "Of Truth And Anguish", exploring his own imperfections in the scope of unmet needs and bad choices as it pertains to relationships. It's a plodding contemplation that runs 6:30 and takes real stamina to get through. Hardcastle's vocal line follows the stentorian rhythm of the bass line, having affect but no real zest. While this speaks more to the mood of the song than the performance, it is tough to stay with. "The Stoning" is a brilliant musical exploration, taking the narrator from first person memory of acts committed to the hazy winter of denial over four stanzas of justice run amok. The pacing here is in line with the plodding feel of the rest of the EP, but Hardcastle strikes gold this time around with a sociological construct that may hit a too close to home if you think about it hard enough.

"Masse" finds Hardcastle ruminating on the advantages of the digital age and the seemingly counter-intuitive effects it has on society as a whole. Using an anachronistic arrangement bracketed by faux-tribal chants, there's perhaps a suggestion that the more civilized and interconnected we become the baser our instincts. It's an intriguing composition where the words are more whispered and sung over a repetitive riff and percussion. "Masse" is different enough to catch your attention and carries enough implications to keep it. Hardcastle closes with an epic bit of baroque electro-psychedelia entitled "Dazed". Clocking in at 11:29, Hardcastle explores the vast canvas of life and death across an uncharted expanse of ambient of minimalist musical composition.

Adam Hardcastle's melancholy is pervasive on Stille. Contemplating concepts such as home, death, life and change, Hardcastle has cast the experience of life in dark tones that reverberate through simplistic, repetitive and sometimes seemingly boundless musical canvases. Hardcastle's voice does melancholy the way Michael Stipe does angst; it's a sound that should be copyrighted and used only for the purpose of good. Stille is a good purpose, even if Hardcastle occasionally lingers too long over his subject. This music isn't for everyone; Hardcastle makes Robert Smith look like a happy fellow, but his songwriting is thought-provoking and clean of pretense. It's a refreshing, if sometimes depressing experience.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Information about Adam Hardcastle on the internet is sparse, but there is a feature on him from Triple-J unearthed.  You can email Hardcastle through that page if you're interested in purchasing Stille.

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