To enter the mind of German electronic musician, Sebastian Lee Philipp is to venture into a lush techno-jungle, a dark space pulsing and throbbing with life. Nowhere is this more in evidence than Haut, the third album from Philipp’s project Die Wilde Jagd. Sparse rhythms bloom into complex worlds of sound, a cacophony of creatively adapted noise and samples which assume a harmonious, rhythmic consistency merging the natural with the electronic.
The impenetrable, leafy undergrowth of this aural jungle hums with cleansing winds and buzzing cicadas. Tymbal organs and wing flicks sing to the beats, clicks, and scratches of a deeply rooted, naturalistic techno. Life here accords with harmony all of its own, and the attentive listener inevitably finds themselves in sync with this world of lush soundscapes. Haut is a concept album; a soundscape best listened to in its entirety, allowing songs to merge into each other.
Techno-naturalism is Die Wilde Jagd‘s forte, and Haut builds on the superb progress of his previous album, Uhrwald Orange, to produce a gorgeous aural atmosphere that superbly merges the synthetic with the natural. Haut is shorter and employs less of a structured song format than the previous release. Its four long tracks are best treated as slightly differentiated movements of a single work.
The first track, “Empfang”, opens with glitchy bursts of techno-static, thrumming electronic pulses and tremulous percussion. But this quickly gives way to a seething, vibrant world of hiss and hum, a whispering jungle as alive as it is electrical. Irrepressible, pulsating beats form a bridge between the electronic and the natural, binding them in a ritualistic groove.
The most song-like track is “Himmelfahrten”, which features the gorgeous recitations of guest vocalist Nina Siegler performing a duet of sorts with Philipp (there’s an important stunning 60 seconds of vocal material on the previous track, “Empfang”, which leads into “Himmelfahrten”). And while the German vocals communicate lexical meaning, words can also be considered sounds with a purely sonic dimension of their own. That is a particular quality of Die Wilde Jagd. Measured chants and staccato-like vocal delivery lend a unique rhythmic quality to the vocals, underscoring the fact that humanity’s enunciations, for all their expressive meaning, are merely another facet of the noisy singing of a natural world, in a sense indistinct from the sounds of cicadas, lizards, snakes, and birds.
The final track, “Sankt Damin”, also conveys this quality: percussive clicks, deep breathing, and background chanting offer a ritualistic base for Philipp’s gentle lyric delivery. His voice merges with the ritualistic undergrowth carpeting the track; his vocals are warm, inviting, and above all harmoniously bound to the natural world expressed by the track’s complex combinations.
The percussive range of Die Wilde Jagd’s creativity – another defining characteristic of the project — is most in evidence on a track like “Gondel”. The gentle manipulation of drums and percussion evokes a range of sounds and images: raindrops, wind, mist, insect calls. It’s all conveyed with a consistency that emphasizes the ritualistic rhythms of the natural realm. Imaginative adaptations draw attention to the resonances between natural and artificial worlds, reminding us of our place in a universe in which humanity erroneously considers itself unique and distinct.
Haut has a quality that is both calming and energizing, and Philipp’s skill lies in achieving a perfect balancing of the two. The deep, breezy soundscapes have a calming and mystical flow, gradually building and swelling with a stream-like cadence from which distinct living rhythms and lively beats are eventually born. The groove and rhythm thus produced are irrepressible; the listener organically compelled to move and sway.
Haut is an album in which to lose yourself, in which to immerse yourself in an imaginative, naturalistic environment that manages to calm and energize at the same time (an invigorating quality shared with the natural world it evokes). It’s a palette on which the listener can paint their visions, and an apt release for a pandemic, offering listeners a brief escape into the wild exterior world which many of us are presently denied. Haut urges us to reconsider our place in this world and to realize that even once our lockdown has lifted, failure to recognize our rootedness in nature can imprison just as surely as the walls and windows which now constrain us. Haut is not an escape, but an entryway into a lush and beautiful world far too many of us have either forgotten or never encountered in the first place. This is techno-naturalism in its full, superb expression.