Review: i Häxa ‘Part One’ EP

Another week and another release from the relentless machine that is Pelagic Records.

This time it’s in the form of an ambitious project from the minds of singer-songwriter and visual artist Rebecca Need-Menear (of electronic alt-rock duo Anavae) and forward-thinking producer Peter Miles (Architects, Dodie, Fizz) who have come together under the moniker i Häxa.

i Häxa 'Part One' EP Artwork
i Häxa ‘Part One’ EP Artwork

Like many of their label mates, the pair attach a fair amount of cerebral depth to the conceptual side of their music and whilst the debut of Part One focuses on glitched out, sparse electronics, it is imbibed with an alt folk storytelling sensibility that looks to dissect the world, from the existential and the ancient, the religious and the historical to the modern deification of the hyper modern technological realities and nightmares in a fever dream of our own making.

Wildly complex in terms of composition, the EP forms the first of a year long quartet of releases that will culminate in a vinyl box set comprising all four parts in November, no doubt packaged with the lavish and loving presentation that Pelagic Records gives to all their releases.

But first, Part One, which doubles as the soundtrack to a short film made in collaboration with director Daniel Broadley, making i Häxa an audio visual art experience that goes beyond a standalone sonic experiment.

Musically the EP/First quarter(?) starts quietly with Underworld, Need-Meanear’s voice is almost acapella, mesmerising and haunting over atmospheric synths allowing lines like ‘I pick my battles’ to shine through before the scything industrial fuzz grows colliding with beats and grinding sounds which reminds me of Fragile era Nine Inch Nails or Gggolddd. The ominous lyrics are intoned with darkness until they disappear into lilting notes and a softer delivery like being held in the eye of a storm.

Inferno is even more minimalist, practically spoken word over low beats that emerge like a heartbeat. As it grows in volume (but not necessarily power) the lyrics become darker and more manic, garbled over the discordant sounds before it shifts into the delicate piano sounds of Last At The Table.

drips with beauty and melancholy, yet toys with tension and horror…

Here the soft, ringing keys allow Rebecca’s voice to wash over you like a soothing balm that is as beautiful and soulful as it is simple. At a fraction over a minute and a half it feels all too fleeting.

Finishing with the longest track Sapling, i Häxa save the most dramatic entry for last as over sounds of water, warm mid-toned piano and the rat-a-tat-tat of drums, the vocals soar almost Björk like over swelling electronic, holding you in the emotional grip of both innocence and innocence lost.

At a little over fifteen minutes in total, Part One understandably feels unresolved and to get a better sense of the story they are building, it is best heard in conjunction with the accompanying video, not that the terrifying, folk horror imagery will necessarily help you put those issues to bed.

According to the press release, the band will be using the seasonal solstices of 2024 as waypoints to unveil the three remaining collections of songs and cinematics that make up the full vision of the project.

It is hard to judge this EP as a single release given it feels like a segue into the larger story and exploration of the concepts so it will be interesting to view it in the context of the complete release at the end of the year.

For now, this is a teasing prospect that drips with beauty and melancholy, yet toys with tension and horror. I’m not sure where i Häxa are going with this, but they have my attention.

Label: Pelagic Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden