Russell M. Harmon’s ‘We Are Failed’ on Rano records is an alternately melancholy and violent album composed with piano and electronics; its ear pummelling harshness and heart pulling softness existing in a gripping balance. The first half is Harmon’s solo compositions; the second contains remixes and re-workings of the same tracks.
Opener ‘Amidst Wolves’ evokes the whispering taut wire harmonics of Richard Skelton, an aural vision of sighing tundral wastes; the piece flexes with gentle heaving, like someone softly crying; a beautiful scene-setter. ‘Without You, I’d Cease’ opens yawning gaps of silence between glitch clicks and clusters of deftly picked-out piano notes; structured with a layered progression, a slowly unfolding stairway; bursts of static mirror the melody, building steadily and unhurriedly to a crescendo of crashing drums, like a deluge of rain that suddenly stops. ‘Like Blood off a Dove’s Back’ buries singly picked piano notes in a torrent of metallic noise, these sudden interruptions backlighting the stark melody. ‘Tragedy Fractures’ returns to languidly unfolding dynamics, a lonely satellite ping emphasises a feeling of isolation, the ringing piano chords hanging and humming in space. ‘An End to Everything, The Ending Means Everything’ closes the first half of the album perfectly; a deceptively simple melody unfolds beautifully with an aching sadness into something more complex, adorned with very little else but sighing electronics; a powerful and moving composition.
The latter half of the album contains remixes that alternately shatter, deconstruct, or underline elements buried within each track. The highlight is Laica’s remix of ‘Tragedy Fractures’: a whooshing foetus heartbeat sounding like a revolving fan underpinning washes of dub echo and a cropped piano refrain, it rolls on exquisitely.
A sense of stifling gloom hangs over ‘We Are Failed’, its frequent noise outbursts offering a much needed cathartic release. It feels close and still; the subtle arrangements and silence cause the listener to lean in and concentrate. The electronics seem to duet in opposition to the piano rather than smear together with it; noise and clamour throwing the simple emotiveness of the melodies into sharp definition.
Purchase the album here.
Visit Russell M. Harmon’s website here.