Hanz Plasty I

[Tri Angle; 2018]

Styles: beats, pulp noir, ephemera
Others: Dälek, Mo’ Wax, Meuko! Meuko!

There are two different ways of looking at ephemera. The romantic angle looks toward fleeting moments, natural cycles, transient bodies — you know, that common subject of rumination for amateur high school poets and billionaires in jeans. Then you have the more nihilist angle characterized by death, loss, waste, the impermanence of everything we hold dear — the poets have graduated to college now, their worldview has matured in a cask of Bukowski quotes. Ephemera of the latter shade function as rich artistic currency for North Carolina producer Hanz, who spins these elaborate patchworks of rhythm and noise from a thick black yarn of negative energy. Plasty I — his latest release via Tri Angle and the first in a pair of conceptual EPs — mourns the death of each sound and structure it creates, capturing their brief existence in a dismal series of noir soundscapes. It wanders through depraved cities, always alone, always at night, trying to catch a fleeting taste of every single dirty vice our pitiful human condition has to offer. So yeah, this is a fun one, obvs.

Above all, Plasty I explores the temporal nature of ephemera. Each track on the record fucks with time in some way or another, positioning the listener as a voyeur to its transgressions. The track “Your Local Shapeshifter” releases three percussive loops of different speeds into the wild and leaves them to scramble for dominance in a gloomy ether of abstract noise — oh how quickly time loses direction when the existential panic sets in and our concept of now takes on an almost sacred meaning. “A Breathing House” hoists time into a vertical position, a kind of infinite present where sound becomes object, allowing Hanz to construct a dreary mise-en-scène out of hissing pads and clattering drums. “Root Words” bites huge chunks out of Memphis crunk and Chicago footwork, chews them up beyond all recognition, and spits them back out into a scrappy beat collage.

That said, a term like “collage” suggests a unification of disparate elements toward one coherent whole (literally a “gluing” together), and this kind of teleology is noticeably absent from the structures that unwind throughout the record. Every little stitch can be felt, stinging beneath vocal melodies, leaving scars between drum beats, straining, stretching, splitting apart the textures they aim to bind. And we look on with anticipation. We yearn for time to collapse. Because tbh, it’s always quite nice when something comes along and frees us from that same old linear temporality that painfully guides us from birth, through Just Sorta Existing Here And There, to death, preferably in ways that don’t just involve going to sleep or floating around in a big, dark water tank or doing illegal things to your brain.

Without a foothold in time, sound pursues manifestation in space. Plasty I relays sound through corrosive streaks of dark pigment gnawing through virgin canvas; patchy monochrome polaroids dissolving in a muddy roadside puddle; one million shards of chalk screaming in unison against a universe of blackboards. In every track, we hear the spluttered marks of action. Gestures that yearn for extension in the vibration of floorboards, the cracking of concrete, the flailing of bodies, the throbbing of hearts. Just listen to “Page”: despite starting on an almost meditative note — a gentle tingsha chime summoning goosebumps of plosive percussion — the track quickly gets rough when a stressful footwork loop plants itself right in that vein between your eyebrows, causing blood to just collect there until your skin and eyes turn an alarming shade of hot pink, maybe fuchsia. Hanz then shakes the track up so violently that it breaks into a pox of sub bass and coughs up a toxic stream of noise, all over your clothes, all down your shirt, and, sadly, all in your hair. And you are moving, yeah, because this feels just like any “hard beat,” but instead of just making you wanna move, it tugs at your limbs like some kind of torture rack… And you enjoy it! You enjoy it so much!

Familiar samples and popular dialects certainly help bring more palatable notes to what is otherwise, by design, quite an acidic listen. But still, Plasty I sees Hanz refusing to treat samples as relics of our most treasured aesthetic traditions: refusing to inherit their legacy, present them on a plush velvet cushion, or honor the original source. Instead, he exhumes them after years of decomposition and treats them like bits of old musical debris. Take the track “Root Words,” which straight-up desecrates a trap drum sample by ruthlessly crushing it under a boot heel of distortion and static until it’s all bruised, swollen, and whimpering for help through bleeding gums. Less aggressive but way more chaotic, the opening track “Advice Ad” is what your night terrors would probably sound like if you once had a traumatic episode involving a flamenco guitarist, with all these frantic strumming samples gasping for breath in a arrhythmic vacuum as they becomes more chopped and layered and mangled.

Such tracks work to subvert conventional notions of reproduction. The old school sound is not given new life but finished off with a blunt switchblade and left to bleed out: there goes your “fresh twist” all over the kitchen tile. And the human voice, so pregnant with meaning and expression, so intertwined with our very own flesh, finds itself reduced to an engine of rhythm, deprived of any melody, permitted to speak only in spare syllables before it’s time to gasp up another hot tissue of chloroform. Wake up, blink hard, stretch out, and you come round to an aesthetic that is somewhat radical in tone: an aesthetic of sampling as destruction, as disfigurement, as decay, wrapped up in a sense of time that always has you proper on edge.

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