Saturday 4 May 2019

LISTEN: Hailaker - 'Hailaker'

As the latest additions to the blog playlist prove, Friday was a fantastic day for new music. There were new records from Vampire Weekend, Benedict Benjamin and Ten Tonnes alongside singles from the likes of Christof van der Ven, Cosmo Sheldrake and Of Monsters & Men. In short - a very good day for new music. I challenge you, however, to find something nestled in your new music playlists that is quite as beautifully crafted as the self-titled debut album from Hailaker. From first listen this record completely stole my heart - take a listen on Spotify or via Bandcamp below.

With founder members Jemima Coulter and Ed Tullett playing as part of his band on the night, my first introduction to Hailaker was when watching Novo Amor headline Union Chapel last year. Tracks from the project were played between sets, and a free download card handed out at the merchandise table. With contributions from Novo Amor, AKA Ali Lacey, on production and instrumentation on the new record, there's a lot of synchronicity between the projects - if you're a fan of one you'll likely adore the other.

Generally though, the Hailaker sound is new. Different. Dare I say... fresh? This is reflected in the name, a made up word, about which Jemima explains that "having a word with no defined meaning means the only association it could have is with the project. That's so freeing because it's completely open, and I think it's led to us feeling infinitely free about what Hailaker is." I absolutely love this.

The result is something truly special. With a lack of self-imposed restrictions on genre, and free from pre-conceptions, each track has a unique appeal. An array of instruments - synths, guitars, flute, saxophone, keys, violin and harp to name a few - create something which is experimental at its heart, and fun to listen to in its unpredictability. It's also worth mentioning that the vast collection of sounds are brought together really well - the production on the record is superb, it never once feels as if there might be too much going on sonically.

Lyrically, the record tackles important issues such as depression, with one of the slower and least heavily layered tracks of the record, Watercolour, opening with the line "Face it, I would sit at home finding places I wouldn't go". Closing track and recent single Not Much sees a narrator struggling with depression second hand, exclaiming in the chorus "it's hard to be around her, I bet it's hard to be down lots." On first listen, a highlight of the record for me was the track Phonetically. It provides a brilliant example of the unpredictability of the record - once you've got used to Jemima's beautifully striking voice taking the lead throughout the record, this is flipped on its head, with Ed taking lead vocals on this one. Other personal highlights are recent singles I Could Be Back and Coma / Smoke which are two of the busiest and loudest tracks on the album.

Working on the record while Jemima was studying for a Maths degree in Bristol and Ed was working with Novo Amor in Cardiff, the album was co-produced by the duo, mostly at Ed's own Oxfordshire studio. Jemima describes the record as "the narrative of mine and Ed's friendship first and foremost, since it meant we went from being strangers to spending weeks writing together [...] there's only a few friends in your life that you'll spend such concentrated time with from the onset, and it's been so amazing for that to be the foundation of our friendship."

Collaboration is a huge part of the fluidity of the project, and another collaborator is Mike Roth, an artist from Portland, Oregon. During the album's creation, Ed introduced Jemima to his artwork; collages filled with scraps of images, letters, cuttings and ephemera. The artwork is reflective of the lack of boundaries within the project. The duo see his artwork as equally important to the music within the project - Ed explains that "what Mike does is so fascinating and beautiful, this incredibly intriguing mix of things that otherwise shouldn't be", while Jemima adds that his "use of recycled materials means his artwork is so consistent and also relevant, kind of intrinsically profound."

If you missed it, check out the recent Hailaker video for Not Much in a blog post here.

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