A year after the sprawling Where All Is Fled, Emeralds co-founder Steve Hauschildt released his fourth solo album for Kranky, a much shorter effort titled Strands. The title relates to the construction of ropes, and the pieces on the album have a similar quality of being loose and amorphous, yet they also hold together tightly. They're largely free of conventional rhythms, but there's a definite flow to them, and they never feel like they're aimlessly drifting. Hauschildt states that the album is also related to "cosmogony and creation/destruction myths." As with other Hauschildt releases, it sounds like it could be a fitting soundtrack for stargazing, but this album has a bit of a rough edge to it. It balances new age slickness with darker, more fearful moments, with a few tracks ending up with waves of Tim Hecker-like distortion. In some ways, it's a bit of a flashback to Emeralds' early days releasing limited cassettes and CD-Rs on noise labels like Hanson Records and American Tapes but with the increased production value and clarity of Hauschildt's later work. The album doesn't dabble in techno or synth pop the way his previous solo releases did, but it does contain "Ketracel," which features pulsating beats reminiscent of '90s IDM. Similarly, "Same River Twice" is fast and busy, with rapid, skittering arpeggios and bubbly textures. "Strands" is slower and more relaxing, with a soft but propulsive flow of smooth, crystalline melodies. "Transience of Earthly Joys" begins with solemn pianos and ends up with shimmering beams of light doused in smoke. The album ends with the dark yet vivid reflection of "Die in Fascination." The album is highly focused and engrossing, and continues Hauschildt's run of nearly flawless albums.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson