Finally, Haikai No Ku’s latest! Mike Vest and accomplices Jerome Smith and Sam Booth strike again. Hailing from Newcastle’s noisey space environments and first originating as one of Mike Vest’s many ‘side’ bands (or is it even truly his? auteur theory usually sucks), Haikai No Ku have been making facemelting waves since 2012. Though not particularly noticed all-over, 2013’s Sick On My Journey and surrounding releases delighted critics and made for the perfect under-the-radar cookies for the hardcore head music fans. It seems to be Mike’s MO: simultaneously start 50 bands, release every bolt of white noise on tape or CDr, then release major albums with each of these bands when everybody starts thinking you’re just noodling away in a rehearsal space somewhere. Already, numerous commenters have coined the term Vestcore to describe the cross-section of Skullflower, Loop and/or Brainbombs that usually results. And so it is with the new Haikai No Ku. But lo! Your humble Shaman has peered deep into the sky and discerned changes coming! Hear me, slacker children! If your arms haven’t atrophied already, put the Xbox controller down and HEAR! Haikai No Ku Has Evolved!
Stop yapping, v-neck idiots in the back. I give you the truth as it is – production has entered the building. So what’s the ruckus? Well, prior to finishing this album, the band put out a pre-studio release containing jams for the songs Strung Out Beyond The Rim and Dead In The Temple. I know what you’re thinking – this album has the best song titles the Shaman has ever laid his Chinese eyes on. Anyway, production of this pre-studio release was raw, washed out and filled with noise, though already sounding less metal-scraping-minds than Sick On My Journey did. Yet when the final tracks got released as part of Ultra High Dimensionality, the diverging results astounded: Haikai No Ku, clearly produced and prettily mixed for the first time! The resulting round drums, front-mixed thudding bass and discernible(!) multitudes of guitar leads made for a surprising and gratifying listen. They even have a Loop track this time around, a thing I know we’ve all been waiting for. No, I don’t mean a cover – I mean an actual Burning World sound-a-like, written by Mike Vest and compatriots. I mean Haikai No Loop. Please gather round and douse yourself in Void In Aimless Flight’s delightful acid- naiveté. The utterly otherworldly yet childish feeling any good Loop track propels is heavily present in Ultra High Dimensionality’s fourth track.
The deal: five new well-produced tracks led by violent Vestcore guitar leads, propelled forward by Sam Booth’s stark bass clang and Jerome Smith’s trudging caveman reverberations. But it’s not just the production that got upped this time – it’s the songwriting as well. Instead of opening the album with the familiar Rallizes-noise blasts like former releases did, Dead In The Temple opens with subtler noise, creeping up on you while the bass and drums carefully give way to its developing blissed out melody. At the one-minute mark, the melody fully kicks in before sweeping you off your feet half a minute later when its brother overdub enters the room and Mike Vest starts lashing the riff into the stratosphere.
Moments like these are sparse yet perfectly put in place, and the album as a whole is orchestrated well. The tail end of every song is heavier and more replete with face-slashing overdubs than the parts before. The aforementioned track and the following Strung Out Beyond The Rim open the album in a familiar plodding way, but third track Blue At Noon shows a dual face, first plodding and then flying away on a midtempo beat with beautiful silver and gold guitar leads, repeating this cycle once more during the course of its nine minutes. It’s a welcome break from the monotony of one-riff-one-song, so prevalent in the psych and doom worlds (though you won’t hear me complain, dear reader). What follows will delight psych fans of all ages: Void In Aimless Flight treads Loop territory, being a perfect synthesis of the aforementioned brightly coloured acid- naiveté and Haikai No Ku’s penchant for Asian-sounding guitar leads. Its motorik beat drives the listener forward to what can only be described as Haikai No Loop’s Ultra-High Burning World Dimension, the ever-growing number of Vest’s leads reminding one immediately of Robert Hampson’s blissful guitar layers.
And then there’s the album closer, a sequel to Sick On My Journey’s Violent Existence of the Yagyu, thusly named Enduring Reign of the Violent Yagyu. Doom, gloom, face slashing guitar leads, and an album closer to remind us Haikai No Ku is never going to stray far from the core of True Noise. It does truly sound like the ending of Violent Existence, yet somehow these protruding talons of facemelting bliss have found its way to the ending of this album, thereby adding another lovely four minutes to one of the most blissed out, noised out moments of Sick On My Journey, only a year later. Point made, gents.
Haikai No Ku don’t only stand proud having nicked the Psych and Doom Award for Best Song Titles Of The Year, they have also managed to craft a victorious sophomore full-length that innovates and expands upon the band’s foundation. Production got upped, a focus was laid on dynamics, the subtle art of songwriting creeped its way into the mix and all of these factors conspired to turn Ultra High Dimensionality into a must-hear for all psych and doom fans. You cried aloud about saturation of the psych and doom market? Or maybe you told yourself, ‘it doesn’t matter if new bands all sound the same, for we have all been birthed in the Iommic’? Well, move aside, uncle flare pants. Here are the boys that will be taking the genre to its next stop. And oh, Haikai No Loop.. let’s hope Mike Vest and Robert Hampson meet one day.
March on into the eternal, brothers! Haikai No Ku does not stare into the abyss, Haikai No Ku does not sing into the abyss, nor does the abyss care to reply with cold stares or empty songs of its own. Haikai No Ku is the abyss, and the abyss is Haikai No Ku. Surrender!
Scribed by: Jochem Visser