One of the benefits of writing for Foxy Digitalis is being exposed to music you never knew existed. Sometimes, the music appears in minimal packaging, with only the most pressing details; a sense of timelessness, perhaps only an artist’s name and title appearing. I received a minimal tape copy of Sing Sorrow for Sweet Bread by HULK, a project of Irish artist/producer Thomas Haugh. One of the wonders of this tape is when it was produced — only a note of titles appeared in the cassette insert, reading like a poem:
A dream in which we were sleeping __ under a poacher’s moon__in a forest like you’ve never seen before,__lagoons and their emeralds__glowing like night eyes __and fox trembles___as we parade our glory boots__working for the milk and honey__with whistle and torch__like birds of the eaves,__singing sorrow for sweet bread__and looking up through a hole in the sky__on this eve of war.
Coupled with the photo of what appears to be a small mellotron model, total enchantment captured me. The sounds were airy, percussive, and somewhat stunted in their majestic execution, small symphonies and lush sounds with a signature that suggests they were delivered by key. Swells of horns, field recordings of conversations or bells, and clusters of notes enter and exit as quickly as they appeared. Entirely subdued, completely hypnotic, cinematic in scope. Snippets shift throughout the single-sided cassette, projecting each chapter in an immediate progression, waltzing or marching when percussion appears, completely suspended when it’s only layers of strings.
Haugh recorded these compositions in a completely distant manner. His execution almost suggests an intermediary between the sounds and the listener, not unlike the pink noise of a needle running on wax grooves. Being removed from the sounds becomes a part of the aesthetic, as the listener almost feels like a participant in this majestic story. Total ambiance, even as pieces shift and elements change, or their arrangements emphasize different sounds.
After further searching, I believe this was originally released in 2010, but I don’t know much about the release’s circumstances. Perhaps that’s what is so amazing about finding this in my package of materials — I feel like a privileged archivist stumbling upon an artifact from a distant time, perhaps a narrative about a grand battle or a personal glimpse into a fragile culture not long for this world. Haugh’s work feels completely anonymous, and with this sense of anonymity follows a beautiful story. So too does his release have a sense of mystery and wonder about it, which compelled me to write even though I’m not sure if this release remains available. Whatever its circumstances, Sing Sorrow for Sweet Bread is a breathtaking collection of ambient, symphonic compositions; eternal in its imprint, fleeting as an anonymous encounter.