No History No Future
Swedish musician Jean-Louis Huhta has been active since the early Eighties, playing in groups such as Lucky People Center, The Stonefunkers, Audio Laboratory, and Skull Defekts. His work has encompassed genres as diverse as punk, acid techno, ambient house, industrial noise, funk, and go-go, none of which I know anything about. So why did his new album “No History No Future” manage to rise to the top of the pile of promos sitting in my inbox? Well, the release comes courtesy of the label Glistening Examples, the curator of which, one Jason Lescalleet, has a particularly sharp ear for interesting experimental work of a quality that goes beyond faithfulness to a given genre (Grisha Shakhnes, Rutger Zuydervelt, and Graham Lambkin have all made appearances). And it also happens to be really rather good.
I suppose most of the music on “No History No Future” could be classified as ‘noise’: rough fog, piercing crackles, random bleeps and micro-rhythms, and occasional wordless murmured vocals certainly point in this direction, but there are also a couple of more ambient, spaced-out tracks. Whichever way Huhta is facing, the ways in which he handles his material are thoughtful and subtle. Quite often, the pitch relations he works with are architecturally layered: this is nowhere more in evidence than in the first track, with its acres of empty space between the low bass, mid-pitched throb, and high rushing air. There’s also often a stark contrast between tones that retain a constant pitch and glissandi that slide up and down.
When Huhta wants to make a racket, he certainly lets rip: the bright euphoria of “Prime Time” and the dam burst of “No Way Out But Further In” hold nothing back. Yet tracks such as “Expulsion” and “Drinking Someone Else’s Dreams” present a much more subdued surface. Huhta’s noise doesn’t seem related simply to volume: there’s also a quality to it that I would characterise as a kind of blankness or emptiness, and that remains perceptible regardless of volume level. The surface flatness of the music, its reliance on constant pitch or simple sweeps, creates a kind of allure that I find remarkably engaging — perhaps this is something to do with the respite it offers from the attention economy of late capitalism, the alternative headspace it creates? The artist has spent considerable time honing his craft across a range of genres, but I sense there’s more to it than just experience: “No History No Future” has an audible subtlety and intelligence to its form that lifts it well above your average DIY/electronic/noise experiments. Essential listening.