1 Jul 2022
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Steven Hue - EP Review: Assembly

15 Feb 2022 // A review by Jamie Denton

At the start of December, I had the opportunity to review the double single Brainstare / Manatorquim by Tasmanian-based ex-pat Kiwi, Steven Hue. At that time, I noted that another three songs would be following shortly, and that, based on the strength of these original two, I was eagerly anticipating what this next batch would have in store. Now that they are here, my prediction was right – I am excitedly eager to hear what these three tracks entail.

Former vocalist and co-writer for Full Code, and sound-designer for art installations, short films, and video games, Steven Hue’s new EP entitled Assembly sees him diving deeper into the electronic and ambient, shedding more of his ‘live/rock’ past. It is fascinating to watch an artist’s experimentation in this way, but more importantly Steven Hue has created something that retains its overall listenability and enjoyment.

First track, Night Club Bar, retains a feel and sound that is closer to traditional electronica than ambient, but as such provides a classy dub/techno link between his previous work and the later tracks on this EP. This is a song that somehow feels both familiar and fresh at the same time, the choppy, almost quirky beats, the deep, resonant bass, and masterfully placed layering lends this track to feel like something that would be heard in a late night/early morning, smoky bar or on a futuristic sci-fi movie soundtrack. The vocal samples are gorgeous, perfectly positioned in the mix to be simultaneously haunting, beautiful, and to capture a sense of mysteriousness.

Second track, Guadyte’s Lair, is where we begin to see Steven Hue’s confident and competent move into atmospheric/ambient music. This type of music is best enjoyed with the lights off – and when you allow the music to be a storyteller, richly describing the scene to you. At the outset, I must admit to not knowing what or who Guadyte is, so the story that developed in my head may be subjectively different than that Steven designed, but that’s the beauty of such music: it can speak to different people in different ways and all of them are valid and true. My interpretation of this track — which may differ from the artist’s conception of the track — is that it represents and depicts a journey through three distinct soundscapes. The first of these spaces, the one in which we find ourselves at the opening of the track, is a vast, cavernous environment. Steven Hue uses a lot of higher register notes, cleverly juxtaposed with rumbling near-droning bass and a gentle reverb-like effect, to create a sense of cold – like entering the mouth of a sublimely large underground cave. As we move into the second phase of this piece (at approximately 1 minute 35 seconds), we seem to enter the lair proper. We are met with a series of competing, and contrasting sounds including some that seem to call from futuristic spaces. The third space (at approximately 2 minutes 45 onwards) intrigues me. Here Steven Hue reaches a point of full droning of single sounds. It is an incredibly minimalist and powerful moment to finish the track, and a sound that I, personally, am a big fan of. I love hearing those slight note fluctuations that reveal the imperfection of music. If anything, I would have liked to see this track expanded further, exploring these spaces in more detail and more hints at the world that Steven was exposing for us, but that’s the sign of some great writing. It’ll keep me coming back to try and find those hints in what has been provided.

Third, and final, track Typhoon somehow nestles nicely in a midspot stylistically between Night Club Bar and Guadyte’s Lair. Starting with a series of droning synth layers, Typhoon teases at being another ambient soundscape similar to Guadyte’s Lair before shattering its own mold by introducing the vocals and dub-esque bass swells. Of the three tracks, this one probably sits the most naturally with the rest of Steven Hue’s work that I have reviewed, but that is not to say that it isn’t a very strong track. It is a great addition to that strong body of work. The vocals and glitchy beat add that signature sound back into the EP, and the track’s placement at the end of the EP is intriguing as though bringing us back out of a journey and back to home.

All in all, another very strong release by Steven Hue. I really like the new directions that he is pushing in, while still retaining what it is that makes his signature sound.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Steven Hue

Steven Hue is most at home in the body of the mind. Hue creates atmospheric soundscapes with a rich blend of electronic sounds and acoustic instrumentation. His evocative vocals stir memories from beyond the edge of conscious reason.

Tapping a rich vein of influences with the tenacity of a musical junkie, Hue fuses ambient soundscapes, experimental rock, and electronica with seamless and satisfying originality.

Hailing from Aotearoa, Hue studied at the Nelson School of Music and is currently based in Tasmania. As vocalist and co-writer for experimental Kiwi band Full Code, Hue experienced the rush of performing live for a highly appreciative fan base. Full Code released a self titled EP in 2009, and full-length album, Telescapes in 2014.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Steven Hue

Releases

Assembly
Year: 2021
Type: EP

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