[sic] Magazine

Hessien – The Alchemist

The Alchemist is the new album from ambient act, Hessien. It is their second release for the Sound In Silence label following the Calcifer EP in 2013. Hessien is the duo of Tim Martin (Maps and Diagrams, Atlantis, Karst, Bluhm, Black Elk, Ouvala) and Charles Sage (y0t0, The Rothko Chapel). They were prolific in the first half of the last decade, releasing works on Fluid Audio, Sound In Silence, Beko DSL, Long Story, and Audio Gourmet.

The Alchemist can be seen as a companion piece to 2010’s Home Is Where the Ghost Is. Per the label blurb the new album is, “a one-hour, asymmetrical trip through guitar textured dream-state sound design. Carefully mastered by George Mastrokostas (Absent Without Leave), The Alchemist is an evolution in their instantly recognisable tone, reflecting the influence of side projects, collaborations, and life experiences of the last ten years.”

My own response to the album feels ever-changing, perhaps reflecting its tonally shifting nature. Twinkling opening track, ‘Michigan Roads’ is pleasing, suggestive of post-rock or even dreampop. However, instead of embracing this direction the album retreats from it, favouring the deconstructed approach of previous works. The result is a journey through static and haze, downtempo and drone. Each piece feels slightly more sombre than the last and evermore inert.

On first listen I found this frustrating. However, with extended immersion I became more attuned to the albums unfolding qualities. To give a clear example, a track like ‘During The Darkest’, feels like it has ambitions to be a Henry Frayne song, yet is somehow tethered by Hessiens minimalist sensibilities. This is entirely the wrong way of thinking about it. After all we could actually listen to Lanterna or Area if we want that Frayne vibe.

The Alchemist is a meditative study. Just sitting and listening is actually somewhat of a challenge. Not because the music is jarring or displeasing in any way but rather because your mind wanders. You go inwards – lose focus. This might be entirely the point but one minute you find yourself immersed in the remotest, desolate parts of deep space, (listening to something like fourth track, ‘Yemeles’) and seemingly the very next moment the album is ending. Did I just zone out there? Where did that other half hour go? The effect reminds me of an old hypnosis tape* I used to have. (*look it up, kids) I can remember the beginning with crystal clarity but I never reached the end.

It worked though…

…and so does The Alchemist.

Per usual for Sound In Silence this release is a limited edition of 200 handmade and hand-numbered collectible CDs. It is packaged in a lovely hand-stamped 127mm x 127mm 250 gsm dark brown recycled cardboard envelope with the front cover image printed on a polaroid style photo paper and an insert sheet containing tracklist and information printed on a 120 gsm smoky grey recycled cardboard. It also comes bundled with a download code coupon and a Sound In Silence card.