Our Emma Rochford takes a look at the latest from Hospital Records mainstay Hugh Hardie – The ultimate lockdown soundtrack.
For those of you whose desktops consist of folders full of unreleased tracks on their 64th variation, Hugh Hardie’s latest offering might be a slightly bitter pill to swallow. As most of us spent the early stages of lockdown adjusting to zoom meetings and casual alcoholism, Hugh was embarking on the unenviable challenge of creating a new tune, from scratch, every day for a week. So, is it possible to create a decent set of tracks without agonising over the sound of a snare for 36 hours straight?
Opener Back & Forth comes out of the gates strong with its meditative loops and dreamlike keys. The emotive soundscape and soulful vocal samples are enough to conjure up sundrenched memories of happier times, whilst the simple sub-bass packs just enough weight to get you dreaming of your first dance post-lockdown. It’s not hard to see why this is the promo track for the lockdown EP. The balance of melancholia and hope is painfully on point. And I’m totally here for the promo vid of Hugh failing at Joe Wicks workouts and eating chicken wings.
Loose Leaf follows in a similar vein with more moody chords and haunting echoes but this time with splashier drums and breaks giving the tune slightly more energy than the first. But the layers are simpler and it doesn’t quite have the same emotional punch. Soundsystem inspired Klaxon then bursts in to serve us all some fire with a sub bass wobbly enough to satisfy anyone missing the stack. This dip into new wave jungle is the first time the EP really makes me want to move and I hope this is a sound Hugh continues to explore.
The rest of ‘7 Tunes in 7 Days’ doesn’t stray very far from the liquid path but the variation is there with the jazz-fused CNK, the Spectrasoul-esque, organically dark and glitchy roller Ticker and the string laden Bending Light featuring esteemed duo Pola & Bryson. Obviously the two styles complement each other flawlessly. Created using only his own hardware, final track Gretchen Bass is a real testament to Hugh’s talent. The techy number has a menacing progression and is bulging with crunchy drums, ‘80s inspired synths and a bassline crafted using the purr of his cat Gretchen. It might have been an idea born out of isolation delirium but somehow it works.
Given the time constraints of this project it’s inevitable that some tracks aren’t as textured as Hugh’s fully-fledged releases, but they never cross the line from minimal to sparse. At times, I craved a little more bite but ultimately these tracks were never conceived with a commercial release in mind. They’re the product of a producer wanting to share his creative process with other liquid lovers at a time when we need music the most. Still, he’s managed to produce 7 tracks which hold their own enough to genuinely warrant a release – one which captures the highs, lows, boredom and future aspirations of this crazy slice of history we find ourselves in.
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