Paul Haig-Kube (Rhythm of Life)
14th October 2013
The former Josef K front man and guitarist, Paul Haig, releases a new album radically different in sonics and texture from his previous life as whiz-kid back in the halcyon days of the early eighties when the post-punk and indie scene in Scotland was burgeoning with an influence, vitality and energy that is still relevant today .
Unlike many of his peers and contemporaries from the era which spawned him Paul Haig has always foraged a path on his own and his latest album Kube continues this singular path by inhabiting a musical universe exclusive to its creator’s own mind. The overall effect is some kind of space age jazz akin to Miles Davis transported to the digital age armed with a copy of ‘Bitches Brew’ and a knowledge of the latest technology and innovation.
Despite abandoning the guitar driven music which first launched him into the spotlight of the early eighties for a more modernist sound the twanging guitars are still tossed into the mix when the track necessitates it and the opening track UW2B deploys their use to great effect. As an opening track it more or less lays out the sonic palette the following thirteen tracks will borrow from and utilise.
The track itself is a funky workout which would give electro artists half his age a run for their money and in a world where such things still mattered it would be a definite contender for a top ten single.
The second track Intro K borrows the same sample as the ‘time becomes a loop.’ sequence which opened Orbital’s seminal second album and drifts in like a transmission from Mars then cuts itself short. All of the Time returns with a darkly skewed pop refrain that Depeche Mode wouldn’t turn their noses up at, but also manages to not outstay its welcome due to its briefness. Other tracks such as Dialog and Red Rocks drift in and out eschewing traditional structure bringing to mind the first half of Bowie’s Low where instrumentals mix intermittently with vocal driven more commercially aware numbers such as ‘Daemon’ which would have slotted in perfectly into the Human League’s repertoire around the time of Dare.
All these mentioned influences might seem to indicate that this album is derivative when in fact the opposite is quite true. Obviously some influences have filtered through, but the work is still, stylistically very much Haig’s own.
Four Dark Traps is seemingly innocuous enough, but eventually builds into a percussive powerhouse whilst Reflected slows things down with some squelchy melancholia that is simultaneously icy in its detachment, but warm in its execution. Midnattsol is probably the closest thing here to the Miles Davis in outer / inner space sound mentioned earlier with its discordant bleepings and jazz influence piano motifs whilst Torn drifts in then out with seemingly little happening in-between.
The last two tracks Park and Shifter further this sonic terrain, but are slightly lengthier instrumentals reminiscent of David Sylvian-again an influence that Haig uses to his own ends successfully- bringing the album to a satisfactory close.
Clocking in at forty two minutes Kube manages to establish its own identity within the traditional album time frame indulging Haig’s private agenda without being over indulgent. It is a work which shows an artist following his own muse with one eye on innovation and artistic merit whilst the other is knowingly fixed on commercial pop driven success. It is the combination of these two factors which allows Haig to occupy an area his own and set apart from many of his contemporaries from the late seventies/ early eighties.