November 09, 2022
Should you’re the kind of music zealot who research the liner notes, chances are you’ll already know that there was a Robert Haigh who launched contemplative fashionable classical albums—which often tipped into darkish ambient territory—within the Eighties on Nurse With Wound’s label United Dairies. You’ll additionally know that he vanished from view by the top of the last decade, solely to reemerge within the Twenty first century with more evocative piano music.
However do you know that there was additionally an “R. Haigh” who dropped a string of livid drum & bass 12”s beginning within the Nineteen Nineties beneath the deal with Omni Trio, and who was a significant participant on the influential label Shifting Shadow? By the top of the twentieth century, Omni Trio—if it actually was multiple particular person—disbanded and disappeared. Stylistically, they couldn’t have been additional away on the musical spectrum from Robert Haigh, the classical pianist. They couldn’t presumably be the identical particular person…might they?
“Basically, it’s all linked,” Haigh says from his residence in England, nestled in a Cornish village close to Truro. “With drum & bass, there was an apparent shift to experimentation with new types of know-how and manufacturing. However lots of the harmonic, polyrhythmic, and atmospheric preoccupations are of the same vein to my earlier (and later) stuff.”
Whether or not it’s tunes geared toward amping up underground dancefloors or hushed, meditative morning listening, Haigh has been stressed sufficient all through his profession to elude simple categorization. To look again over a profession that spans from the early ‘80s underground within the UK to the heyday of drum & bass and jungle then to Twenty first-century ambient, is to understand that Haigh’s major style is hallucinatory, aural sleights of hand—a sound that reveals fathoms extra with every hear.
As a younger man Haigh, like most British teenagers of his technology, was first struck by “the futuristic sounds and alien look” of David Bowie and Roxy Music; seeing them carry out on High of the Pops left him thunderstruck. “Brian Eno, after all, grew to become an enormous affect as I adopted him by his solo profession,” Haigh says. Simply as essential was the second his older sister gifted him her copy of The Faust Tapes. The younger Haigh was flummoxed by the German krautrock band’s hijinks, which have been baffling and disjointed in equal measure, till in the future “it opened up [for me] a complete new manner of listening to and occupied with music. I particularly favored the juxtapositions—discordant/noisy alongside melodic/atmospheric.”
Haigh went to London for college, however dropped out to take a job on the Virgin Information within the Oxford Stroll basement, the place he met the likes of JG“Foetus” Thirwell and future bandmate Trevor Reidy. Nurse With Wound’s Steve Stapleton labored close by and would hang around on the store on his lunch breaks. Not lengthy after, Haigh and Reidy’s artwork rock band Reality Membership performed gigs with the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and This Heat, quickly discovering themselves slotted alongside Nurse With Wound and Whitehouse on the noisy 1980 breakout compilation Hoisting The Black Flag. (He additionally contributed to Nurse With Wound albums like Spiral Insana and The Sylvie And Babs Hello-Fi Companion.)
Returning to the touchstone of Eno, Haigh quickly realized his musical pursuits had shifted: “I needed to develop a distinct aspect that mirrored my curiosity in minimal and ambient music,” he says, “one thing extra atmospheric, extra layered and textured, with out the constraints of a bunch format.” He started releasing ruminative piano and minimal music by Nurse With Wound’s United Dairies label by the remainder of the last decade.
He additionally left London in the summertime of 1989 and opened a report store in Hertford, placing his personal music apart as he targeted on the enterprise. “Instantly, it was clear that the type of stuff that I used to be used to promoting in London wasn’t doing nicely right here,” he remembers. “As an alternative, the youngsters that have been coming in have been into a complete completely different world of obscure home, rave imports, and white labels.” Enjoying catch-up, Haigh immersed himself in acid home, bleep, and extra. In it, he might hear echoes of the bands he had reduce his tooth on, from Cabaret Voltaire to Kraftwerk and Cluster.
A buyer informed Haigh he had made a monitor on his residence pc, piquing Haigh’s curiosity additional. It was a breakbeat monitor from Syko & Mak, what on-line commenters would now name “correct ruffness,” and Haigh liked the monitor a lot he arrange his personal label Parliament to launch their 1992 EP Murda. “This actually appealed to my post-punk, DIY outlook,” he says. “I instantly acquired an Amiga for myself and began to fuse a few of my layered concepts with the brand new potentialities of sequencing and sampling. Omni Trio grew out of this experimentation.” Haigh’s function within the UK drum & bass underground flourished throughout six full-lengths and dozens of 12″s by the last decade, to not point out the music he launched on Parliament and its sister label Candidate.
Even amid these frenzied snares and impolite boy breaks, Haigh by no means stopped making fragile, thought-about piano music; “it’s simply that a lot of it wouldn’t go well with the d&b tempo.” However at the beginning of the brand new century, his curiosity in dance music started to wane, and he once more discovered himself drawn to the quieter finish of his catalog. New piano albums started to floor beginning in 2007, bringing Haigh’s work full circle.
On the floor, frenzied dance followers and introverted ambient followers might sound at odds, however Haigh’s discography reveals they’re however completely different sides of the identical coin. “I don’t actually see an excessive amount of distinction between my latest work and my ‘80s stuff,” he says, trying again on his oeuvre. “Almost 40 years on, I’m clearly a distinct particular person: I’ve extra life expertise, manufacturing ability, and information to attract on. So in that sense, my expression has matured and moved on, however my musical preoccupations stay a lot the identical.”
We requested Haigh to stroll us by choices from his huge, stylistically stressed catalog.
“Omni Trio began as a little bit of a aspect undertaking following the opening of the report store,” Haigh says. “Unexpectedly, it actually began to take off. I used to be on a roll, concepts have been flowing, and it was a extremely inventive time. However in direction of the top, it began to really feel a bit claustrophobic and limiting. By the point I’d completed Rogue Satellite tv for pc I used to be itching to strive extra issues, to experiment with time signatures and completely different compositional approaches—making extra use of house and silence. I thought-about doing all these items as Omni Trio, however on the time it felt proper, though scary, to make a clear break of it and, in impact, begin once more.”
“In 2012, Shifting Shadow did a really low-key launch of uncommon tracks that have been already in existence,” Haigh says. “However Above The Treeline is a complete completely different undertaking. These tracks have been reconstructed from stems and fragments salvaged from previous DATs, mini discs, and floppy discs. They have been at numerous levels of completeness—from nearly completed to finish restoration jobs. Most of them have been in progress on the time I delivered Rogue Satellite tv for pc. It was fairly a cathartic expertise, revisiting this materials and bringing it again to life. However it’s additionally important in that, there’s no extra materials hiding away. That is the ultimate transmission from Omni Trio.”
Notes and Crossings
“Even with the success of Omni Trio, I by no means stopped writing fragments of piano materials,” Haigh admits. “I do it most days, it comes out of improvisation. So I used to be mainly build up a physique of piano materials that I’d later be capable to dip again into and turn into the items that got here to be launched on Siren Information.” With this hushed, nonetheless 2007 album, Haigh returned to the sound that he first explored within the early ‘80s.
Strange and Secret Things
“I’m self-taught, and all my music begins with improvisation,” Haigh says. “I’ll mess about for some time, and if I hear one thing that I just like the sound of, I’ll hone in on that and mess around with it for some time. As I’m riffing with it, I’m making an attempt completely different keys, various phrasing, and extra progressions till one thing actually begins to make sense. I adopted Eno as he ventured into his extra adventurous and ambient music—later working with artists equivalent to Jon Hassell and Harold Budd, who grew to become an enormous affect.” The spirit of Budd and his distilled strategy to the piano involves the fore on this 2011 launch.
Creatures of the Deep
“As I work and are available throughout one thing I like, I’ll report a tough model of it in order that I don’t overlook it,” Haigh says. “Then I’d put it to 1 aspect and focus on additional developments of it—coming at it from different angles. However there’s no set rule. It’s simply experimentation. As a rule, I’ll find yourself scrapping it, or perhaps preserve a fraction as one thing that I’d use in a distinct tune afterward. Beginning with 2017’s Creatures From the Deep, it was a growth from solo piano tracks—with occasional washes and electronics—to a extra deliberate use of preparations, textures, and layers. There are nonetheless quite a lot of solo tracks on these albums, however there may be additionally this transfer in direction of what you may name a extra cinematic sound.”
“On first hear, Black Sarabande can seem like an ambient piano album,” Haigh says. “However hear nearer, and different little sonics emerge: ambient washes, area recordings, quiet unidentifiable sounds. These types of concerns have develop into more and more necessary to me. They’re usually nearly like secret layers or subliminal messages. All of it provides to the atmospheric depth of the piece and one other delicate stage of curiosity.”
“In a manner, these three Unseen Worlds releases work collectively as a trilogy,” Haigh notes. “When it comes to full-length album releases beneath my title, I’m calling it a day. It seems like I’ve form of finished what I wanted to do with that format. I really like writing and making music, so I’ll nonetheless be engaged on the occasional low-key undertaking and collaboration, however at a distinct tempo. I’m additionally eager to get again to portray and visible artwork. I’ve acquired lots of concepts in that space that I want to discover.”