Ian Hawgood – 光 (Eilean, 2018)


Photons are sometimes referred to as a “wavicle”, a wave-particle. At once they exist as physical particles, predictable in their path and trajectory, and yet also as a wave-function, a probability of occurrence across points in space.

Ian Hawgood’s 光 means light, and like the wavicle of the photon this short little record takes two forms. The first half, named through Chinese characters, is the physical part. Opening  (“Sequence”) trickles in on cassette fuzz and piano homeliness, tender strokes setting the house to a rhythm as birdsong chirrups through open windows. Following 波 (“Wave”) opens further, the piano rolling gently in heavy afternoon light, little crests of activity catching the Sun in tinkling, twinkling pleasantry, afterimages burned softly onto the retina.

That same light had a lonely passage through the cosmos, and a lonelier one in the banks of memory;  旅路 (“Journey”) is spartan, oases of lachrymose sound separated by a glowing, reverberant space between the silken and solitary piano strokes. It begins to spin out, the darkness of time swallowing the brightness of an instant as it moves into the frailty of 消滅 (“Eliminate”, or “Perish”). Sound struggles here as pleasantry begins to slip, the piano softly searching for footholds as it outlines a delicate form whose echoic shards waver and droop in uncertainty at the point of loss.

It introduces the second half, the emotional side riddled with baggage. “Every Ending is a Little Sadder Now You’ve Gone” rolls along in perfunctory arpeggiations, the tape fuzz intermingling and bleeding into its matrix. Its edges fray, spiralling out into diffractive decoherence as its solid form begins to lose definition: from beam to wave. “Hurt Whispers On” is haunted by reminiscence as only a trickle of melody is permitted through, a few simple piano keys lost to a shimmering hollow before coming out more forcefully for good in following “Such Arcs Remain”.

It feels more weighted, more substantive here, carving a new path perhaps or simply allowing the bends of the unexpected waveform to be embraced. It slices through the melancholia and leaves a hovering drone hum behind, ringing in not quite satisfaction, but perhaps acceptance. It makes space for the genteel closing tones of “A Light That Never Dims”, the flickering remnant of memory allowed to persist unsullied despite the passage of time and the hurtful changes done to it. It slides in and out of perception but is never lost; indeed, its final moments are abrupt, the album not permitted to fade into obsolescence and forgetfulness, a sense of continuation permitted beyond the close.

Memory is bittersweet: it retains the tangible preciousness of a moment, the sweetness of an instant, and yet keeps it from physical reach, the mind distanced from the true fullness of feeling. It lives on though, and whilst we might never quite reach its exactness again, we can relish in the knowledge of its occurrence and be sustained by its afterglow.