HFR’s “Kalahest” review by J. C. Silva (ex-4 Luas Radio)

May 24, 2011

Hyaena Fierling Reich – “Kalahest”, the principle of open windows on a windy day.

I had been warned about Kalahest way before its release – active since the mid-90s, the works of Hyaena Fierling Reich have been previously available, one way or the other, in one-off collaborations, momentum compilations and self released ep’s and mini-cd’s but this recent full-length release offers a new viewpoint towards the real dimension of her music and sounds. Although a literary approach is temptingly motivated by the contents of this album, I suppose its inner strength is so sincere, genuine and well-intended that one reckons it must be faced through the eyes and ears of facts and how they interfere with the way her music gets perceived by the listener.
Hyaena Reich is a laborious mind; apparently, she combines at least three different stages of procedures that lead to the final body of work (and, please mind you, I do not intend hinting at all the possible alchemic connotations this work may have) – invention, experimentation and, above all, improvisation play a heavy-duty role in it all; Hyaena seems to ponder about all the possible implications the choice of her field sounds are going to induce the listener into, so she makes a careful division, a separation of waters which is only perceptible “after the fact”, that is, unlike most fellow ambient musicians and sound craftsmen/women, who accomplish their task along the process, thus “betraying” the overall effect of both performance and artistic creation. In these cases, the ambient work functions as some wallpaper you can “taste on the side”, but I dare you denying the fact that most seldom people feel the curiosity to re-listen to them the next minute.
With Hyaena you are always led into going back a bit so you may check and re-check the logic and structures of tracks, thus enticing the listener into an aural focus mode. I hear you say – “ok, it’s narrative, then…” – well, it is, but clearly not only that. You cannot be narrated into the unknown, especially in the shape of sound, unless you have been set in tune, meaning to turn interactive, thus being able to immediately respond to stimuli and activate your mental creativeness. Traditional narrative often implies active –passive roles that may change just slightly as the story goes. From the sounds in Kalahest, you move along under your own will – actually I feel literally like swimming some undercurrent!
Indeed, there’s a rather efficient care in providing the listener with a cinematic approach to the themes in the album – the opener is a magnificent example of how an hypothetic film could be being shot in a parallel world, not that faraway actually, preceded by an introductory dialogue that sets the expectation reeling for more; the evident ethnical vocal approach on both of the two opening tracks beams us in through open eastern fields of fulfillment – without the ever-growing corny and helpless effect of “new-age-world-music-for-world-music’s-sake” – and if you are able enough to draw a sense out of the sequence, you’ll be given the passport to the fully understanding of it. 2 tracks that are worth one of the best “acclimatization” I’ve recently experienced to a first listening.
If the Vietnamese voices looped down in Smiling radiant and Trembling, shining matter, the following handful of tracks reunite us with a more recognizable Hyaena (not sounding exactly redundant – just more familiar, which is but a good sign for stylistic consolidation!). The harsh, shouted anathemas/liberating screams in Clouds Immense portray her as a powerful individual performer (how many women in the music world do you really know capable of such delivery? Maybe 1 or 2, yes, but the best, actually, and hers is finding the way up…). There are a few re-encounters with tracks that had been previously released in special occasions and performances, but that just won’t stay in the way of the sound discovery voyage this album is – déjà vu is here something of considerable enjoyment! Anyway, I do not intend to go on setting a kind of track by track map of Kalahest – that would be tiresome and would kill the thrill of it all.
In a world so highly referential as modern (contemporary) music, it’s basically a contradiction in terms to tag Hyaena’s work – from all the interviews and conversations I was able to attain, she was always very frank about the artists and creators that somehow introduced her to the universes we may travel to in her work –that said, we mustn’t forget this can also seem limiting and pigeonholing. But acknowledging influences and references can be a constructive and uplifting exercise when you mention the names of Peter Christopherson and Jhonn Balance of Coil, of Throbbing Gristle (especially on their most recent comeback ventures, unfortunately culminating in the death of P. Christopherson), of Diamanda Galas, or even Hawkwind for that matter ( actually, I believe Dave Brock would just love to use some passages in Kalahest for long intros on the Hawks’ recent and ever proficient production ;)).
The fact is that her work hardly – if ever – sounds derivative. I feel it is extremely important that women musicians of my country are definitely leading the way in terms of highly innovative experimental music and sound (just check the very recent “Les Femmes Experimentelles” compilation) – it’s not reversed sexism, it’s just a kind of big expectation that is being fulfilled all through this “lost decade” (also in music!) for this especial country in Europe. Hyaena Reich isn’t someone to be mistaken by anyone else – actually, her highly superior learning is the kick-starter of the whole process, then using untraceable skills of her own. Kalahest is probably a new starting point, not a “but” in itself.
As the title suggests, Alchemy may have its golden rules but as experimentation goes the free will knows no boundaries, so Kalahest dissolves more predictability than gold, recreating sound matter over and over again. Just like Paracelsus, we have a problem – the container for Kalahest will always be limiting, be it cd or mp3 (maybe vinyl would be a charming format for this, yet still limiting…), the really fit vehicle for its listening being the thin air inside a refreshed and spacious room, pure hologramic sound- just to use a worn out cliché, the sound of freedom is here. Get used to it.

João Carlos Silva
( Ex-4Luas, on Aveiro Fm)

KALAHEST by Hyaena Fierling Reich can be listened and dl’ded here:


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