Review: i Häxa ‘Part Two’ EP

Back in March Rebecca Need-Menear (one part of alt-rock combo Anavae) and Peter Miles (Architects, Dodie, Fizz) released the first part of a four EP series through Pelagic Records that will make up the complete ‘ground-breaking multimedia project shaped by a collision of old gods and new technology…’.

i Häxa 'Part Two' Artwork
i Häxa ‘Part Two’ Artwork

Using the seasonal solstices to act as waypoints for the revealing of each chapter of a project that will form the complete album to be released on vinyl in November, i Häxa now continue their abstract, folk-influenced, genre-straddling soundscape with Part Two coinciding with Beltane, the ancient Iron Age festival of fire.

Much like the initial EP, the overarching theme is a post-apocalyptic combination of alt-folk, harsh electronics and ancient meteorological mythologies that are expressed through live session recordings, visual accompaniments and floating soundscapes to create a piece that seeks an existential journey into the human psyche, dissecting the modern world versus the ancient and the separation of what makes us human.

Part One was often harsh and minimalist, built around a tale that followed a nameless wraith-like woman through a fever dream of nameless places and unbridled impassioned impulse, its four tracks were often sparse despite the layers of droning industrial fuzz that recalled the likes of Nine Inch Nails and GGGOLDDD, soundtracking a nightmare visual story that was drenched in the kind of old world ritual that could have made up the back story to the excellent Season One of HBO’s True Detective series.

Part Two picks up the baton with a more intimate and tender approach for the next beat of the story. Each part of the latest EP can be more readily and individually defined than its predecessor, no less gossamer light in touch and haunting in vulnerability, however, the greater organic feel makes the protagonist in the story grow more real and the emotional eddies and wakes created in the searching turbulence ripple through the whole piece.

The gentle acoustic guitar that underpins opener Eight Eyes is warm and delicate. The dancing folk arpeggios tease the emergence of hope, like the first spring sunshine after the cold, wintery glitching, bleak harshness of Part One. Over this tapestry, Need-Meanear’s mesmerising voice floats with a mixture of restraint and power as she asks the searching question ‘How does it feel?’ forming the backbone of the lyrical theme.

As the track progresses, orchestral electronics join the throng, swelling the dream-like sounds with drums and deep bass resonance which could draw comparisons to some of Chelsea Wolfe’s work and dovetails well with Sapling, the concluding part of the first EP.

the vocals drift over colliding beats and instrumental swirling…

This bolstering of the sound continues on We Three with the electronica having greater influence and presence. Here the vocals drift over colliding beats and instrumental swirling. Shifting to a darker narration, there are ominous spoken word passages intoned over shuffling drum and bass grooves that blend and contrast with the soaring highs the singer reaches. Keeping with the subliminal unsettling overall vision, it ends with weird, effect-driven and childlike repeating voices.

The Well by contrast is a beautiful piano lead ballad, backed by weeping violins. The stunning vocals are silky smooth and striking, mixing the balance between low and tender and edgier, more biting lines like ‘You’re so full of shit’. The second half explodes into sweeping James Bond-like film score grandiosity, the likes of which could be heard in the trip-hop stylings of Massive Attack or Portishead, the conclusion bleeding over into the final entry.

Drawing the EP to a close with Fog Of War returns with the uneasy spoken word but this time over warping, discordant orchestral sounds that feels like the hopeful start of Part Two is now spiralling back into the unsettling chaos of its predecessor. A jarring combination of the previous motifs that i Häxa have explored, this short piece feels more like a set-up for the next entry and serves as a reminder that this is a continuing saga being played out over a long period.

The teasing feeling leaves you wanting more answers and is exactly the point of this release format and a commentary on the instant gratification demanded by modern life.

The studio recording was filmed in collaboration with Part One filmmaker Daniel Broadley which hopefully will be released in tandem to add more dimensions to the project as this installment seeks to build from the mystical elements of the groundwork they have laid and bring i Häxa into a more tangible consciousness.

Putting the two EPs back-to-back is an intriguing story flowing with emotion and sensory stimulation that makes up half an hour of spiritual questioning. The next layer will move the story into the third act, and I expect to see the drama and passion ramp up further as the band strive to create something that speaks to a deep, subconscious yearning within us all.

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

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden