Electronic musician Steve Hauschildt has had quite a decade. His prior group, Emeralds released their most critically acclaimed record Does It Look Like I’m Here? right at the beginning, in 2010. That record saw the group congealing and having the most fun heard on an Emeralds’ record. Since then, Emeralds have disbanded, and Hauschildt has released solo albums at a clip of nearly one a year, slowly becoming one of the more venerated musicians in the electronic realm. The sounds have bounced around from new-wave and pop-influenced (Sequitur) to beat heavy techno-influenced albums (Strands), but the constant has been the calming nature of a majority of the songs. Hauschildt’s new album for Ghostly International, Nonlin, offers up a serving of what’s expected as well as some developments in his sound.
The opener, “Cloudloss”, does what a good ambient song should do: It floats in, it slowly develops to an epic climax, and then it floats out, all while probably not bothering someone curled up reading in the corner. The follow-up track, “Subtractive Skies” starts quiet and slowly develops into a beat-heavy bass-led groove and never really being loud about it. “A Planet Left Behind” is the lightest track on the album, and beautiful all the same. It’s just there to enjoy, like air.
“Attractor B” is where we notice something a little new. It starts with some simple chime sounding chords while something else slowly bubbles from below. It’s a glitch in there. Eventually, that glitchy beat not too far from prime-era Aphex pops to the forefront and takes over the song. It’s not exactly calm or relaxing in the traditional sense. That reader curled up in the corner probably would have just popped their head up to see what all the noise is about. It’s not a bad development, really, but it’s noticeable.
The rest of the album pretty much bounces around between the two types: one being was it expected and calm (“The Nature Remaining” and “Reverse Culture Music”) and glitchy wildness (“Nonlin” and “American Spiral”). It’s a rewarding enough journey, though.
As it is, it’s not a typical ambient release, as there is much more engagement required from the listener. A commonly respected feature of an ambient record is that you can forget about it and just let it color your life. Nonlin is not that. It’s asking you to notice the cracks in the structure and the tension caused by them. It wants to show all its parts, not hide them. It’s a more challenging record, for that reason, but it’s also one of the more rewarding listens of Hauschildt’s career.