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City of Quartz is a document which comprises the talents of musicians Mads Heldtberg (Düreforsög), Bill Gould (Faith No More), Charles Hayward (This Heat), BJ Miller (HEALTH) and Anders Trentemøller, as well as a choice few others in an experimental group under the name, House of Hayduk. Though there is no guessing whether this album is merely a one-shot side project for the musicians, the fact the album has been released solely as a limited run (five hudred copies total) seems to suggest it might be.
This is not to say, however, the approach for the performances and production was anywhere near unserious or lackadaisical. In tune with the quality of the musicianship, the four tracks here—”N,” “E,” “W” and “S,” the directions of a compass, not incidentally—are incredibly tight, while maintaining a delightful sense of spontaneity. In this way, there are echoes of the early cut-and-paste experiments of progressive rock eccentrics Faust, where a track chugs along in a certain groove before completely abandoning it mid phrase.
This modus operandi is established early on, as opening track “N” begins with a propulsive, phased-out drum pattern that lifts toward a zenith before dropping into a completely different drum groove that sidesteps around a haunting synth line. Seductive horns interrupt a minute later, followed by an almost Meat Puppets II-esque alt-country interlude thirty seconds after that. Already, the listener has lost their way in an audio wilderness. However, as these little musical vignettes are so well performed in their almost cinematic way, it is in the most pleasant sense of being lost.
There are, however, times when the compositions might get a little too murky for their own good, and though it might seem surprising, these moments have nothing to do with the group’s penchant for musical bait-and-switch. Rather, the more difficult moments of City of Quartz come when there is simply too much piled on each other. For example, though it might be fitting for a particular anarchic mood, the middle passage of “E” floats just at the precipice of utter discombobulation. That said, the band proceeds to temper the mayhem with a suitably haunting, if hypnotic groove to play out the track.
City of Quartz as a whole is a good and challenging listen for the right ear and mood, even though one could also see it being something your local independent record store owner puts on the store’s speakers to give that “progressive rock on limited run vinyl” kind of feel. It’s the sort of album the owner is just begging you to ask him about: “Sorry, pal. It’s only a limited-run vinyl. Very rare.” Regardless, the music is dense and niche-tastic. It is also delivered with a fair amount of joy, as the musicians that make up House of Hayduk clearly have enough of a sense of humor about themselves—the album proper ends, as one would guess, mid-phrase on a dead stop. Such a mischievous sense of humor suggests these guys proudly stand by their quirky and chaotic record.