EP stream of the week: Torn Hawk's "Cowboys (For Karen)"

Far out sounds abound as producer Torn Hawk reworks a great album into an ambient western

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When London-based producer Karen Gwyer passed on her debut EP, ‘Needs Continuum’ to visual artist and producer Luke Wyatt (aka Torn Hawk), the resulting EP was a mystic sonisphere of deconstructed, softcore synth rhythms and industrial whispers. Or as Wyatt describes it: “a suite of deformations.”

Released via No Pain No Pop, ‘Cowboys (For Karen)’ is a 35-minute EP-cum-mixtape containing five separate tracks, tied together by a narrative describing the images that emerged in Wyatt's mind when creating the work. He describes the story as “a set of mood cues/listening notes.” A visual artist as well as brooding composer, this conceptual narrative gives the sounds a cinematic edge, bringing the work to life.  

Wyatt's website bio describes his “long-standing obsession with elevated decay and the thrown-away,” and when he got his hands on Gwyer's record, he took out the bolts that made up the original record, dismantling the abridged thoughts that made up the album. Replacing the exposed clustors of ambience with sharper melodies, Wyatt pumps in serrated guitar licks and intense Kraut rock flavours. Darkly brooding and with world-infused pulses, the result is a cyclical exploration into deconstructed psychedelia. Here's how he described his EP:

[I] took the stems, put a rope around them and dragged them through some American dust. The dust gathered itself into a shape, like a maple sugarcandy. It was an outline of this prairie girl. The sounds had decided to tell a story about this girl and her cowboy dad.

Gauze (Spread):

A bowl of ground glass. She pours it into her frayed gingham apron and carries it through the tall yellow grass.

Cowboys:

The riff is them coming over the hill, coming back to those waiting on porches and in doorways. John Ford always had people framed waiting in such places.

Grace Scrawl:

The daughter is sent for water. She draws with a stick in the wet sand by the riverbank, making trailing lacy shapes that link and curl back on themselves.

Oak & Sludge:

Her father swings an axe through the first snow of the year. Dark metal cuts a black motion arc through the white, and finds a thudding home in oak.

Gauze (Sped):

Hopped up on taffy and molasses, instead of doing chores she spends an hour staring at the sun through a piece of ruby-colored glass. When the sugar crash comes, she lies on the cool, hard packed dirt under the porch, and rides out the headache looking at the spindly insects that make a home in the dark places down there.

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