Jamendo (#006196), 2006
There’s something timeless and mysterious about haiku, the Japanese poetic form that hides depth and layers of subtlety within its simple yet rigid structures. It’s appropriate, then, that this French electro project has taken Haiku as its name, for the music produced by this enigmatic one-man band captures the same spirit as the ancient and celebrated poems.
The formula of Haiku’s music sounds simple on paper: warm IDM keys are backed by sequences of layered and off-beat percussion. But it’s how Haiku sounds as a whole that separates the project from the ever-growing ocean of bedroom electronica. Haiku sees rhythm as the means and the end, and is somehow able to fit the disparate pieces together to create a cohesive whole; each Haiku track uses percussion to break up space in ways that seem natural, yet new.
Groovorama, the band’s second self-released album as part of the digital Jamendo Collection, refines the formula begun in 2004 with Synthese, Haiku’s debut on Parametric. Each track has identified only by a number; the entire Haiku catalog has been numbered consecutively from its inception, and Groovorama contains numbers 18 through 26. A simple lo-fi melody begins “18,” with soothing tones rising and falling in simple succession. These atmospheric components are an integral part of the Haiku experience, and serve as the foundation upon which the core is built. Before long, a misleadingly simple bass-drum and snare beat begins to fill in the space, and gradually, additional rhythmic elements are added – cymbals, light distorted hits, chimes – until everything comes together as one glorious tapestry of separate rhythms working together to produce a glimmering piece of order, sequence, timing, and space.
“19” begins with a down-tempo bassline, upon which cymbal strikes, echoing bleeps, and metallic scratches are deftly arranged, each playing off the other like raindrops upon neon pavement. “20” is full of fitful stops and starts, with carefully measured flurries of dizzying clicks separated in precise intervals; it’s a wonderful showpiece of relaxed mania. “23,” perhaps Groovorama’s strongest track, starts with a slow trip-hop beat, slowly uncovering each layer of sequence, melody, and drum, before a crowning touch of chimed melody materializes, and all moves together as one, like the finest piece of clockwork. When the new elements appear, it’s as if they’ve been there all along; Haiku is showing us the beauty that occurs when things mesh.
There’s something undeniably profound and magnetic about rhythm, and Haiku knows this. Music can be a celebration of controlling and fitting together, while also honoring the organic rhythms that govern us all. Haiku is keenly aware of the similarities present here, and appears to see the world as a ragtag collection of disparate parts that yearn to find companions and collaboration. If only all things could work together so well – even the unexpected. Groovorama appeals to the sense of rhythm that moves the ever-ticking hand of time, and to our craving for order, but it also reminds the listener that there’s still room for the second hand to play, even while it moves closer to inevitable midnight. Like the poetic form that inspired the name of its creator, Groovorama is deceptively simple and deeply satisfying.