The Hafler Trio: A House Waiting for its Master

Andrew McKenzie is on a roll. Suffering from a life-threatening combination of illnesses, and prevented by Kafkaesque bureaucracy from being treated for them, he has thrown himself headlong into his work. His first album as the Hafler Trio in some years, Whistling About Chickens, has been followed by a slew of limited edition CD and vinyl releases on a bewildering variety of labels. In a crisis such as this you find out who your friends are, and McKenzie’s renewed burst of activity has been aided not only by the labels that have released this material, but by the artists such as Autechre, Michael Gira and Bruce Gilbert who have collaborated with him on many of them. Eccentric but fascinating live events in London and Preston have also contributed to McKenzie’s heightened public profile.

A House Waiting For Its Master is a 10” EP comprising three beautiful, drone-based pieces. Occupying the whole of side one, “Everything That Stops You Becomes Your Idol” is the densest of the three – a shape-shifting zone of phased frequencies that pulsate with an uncanny energy. On side two, “Nobody Had Come In, But Someone Had Arrived” hoevers with unearthly grace, its shimmering drone sounding like a reverberant cathedral organ.

McKenzie twists the knife, however, on the final track, “The Tragedy of the Loss of Inaccessibility.” Here a harsher, more discordant drone increases dangerously in volume, paralleled by an infernal rhythm. These suddenly cut out and, as the listener breaks out in a cold sweat, a malfunctioning machine crackles and spits. A moment of quiet is broken by an uneasy frequency and a final, sinister drone.

The record is pressed on thick, translucent vinyl, and comes with a four-page leaflet containing McKenzie’s usual cryptic texts. The news that he has now resolved his residency issues, and is finally able to receive treatment for his illnesses, is incalculably welcome.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 13, 2005)

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