Back when I used to buy CDs, I ended up with two copies of Auburn Lull’s 1999 debut, Alone I Admire, which is a majestic slice of dreamy guitar surge. Comparing that cloud-scaling opus with new album Hypha, their first album in nine years, is like comparing a cathedral to a meticulously maintained garden. I stand in awed witness to Alone I Admire, amen; I live inside Hypha’s minutely detailed ecosystem and feel the profound loneliness of nature.
Thanks to being on emailing terms with Auburn Lull’s Jason Kolb, I’ve learned that the sound of Hypha evolved from the band taking battery-powered music gear on camping trips. Kolb describes these trips as “electronic/pulse-heavy sessions in the middle of nowhere, with the sound of wind, crickets, birds, etc. in the background and the natural reverb of the surroundings”. Knowing this makes perfect sense when listening to these 36 minutes of carefully crafted sound.
While the band’s Hiber EP (released on cassette in 2014 by Geographic North), plus two albums by Billow Observatory (Kolb’s collaboration with Jonas Munk), partly prepared me for Hypha’s minimalism, I’m still coming to terms with exactly how minimal it is. At times, listening to Hypha feels like walking into a stark white room, turning around and not being able to find the door.
Despite spending several months with this record, I still feel as though it’s evading my efforts to apprehend its secrets. To step inside its intimidating, glacial spaces means being rendered paralysingly lonely by the music, while being simultaneously reassured by Sean Heenan’s comforting vocal presence and koan-esque lyrical fragments. It’s a work of art that makes me feel all-too human – and for that I feel thankful.