Text by Adam Lehrer
It feels like in some ways contemporary abstract electronic producers are the most modern artists working in music today. They have absolutely no sonic barriers holding them back from finding their sounds and no rules to follow. It makes much sense then that Rock bands and Pop musicians are looking towards the Electronic underground for producers that can elevate their sounds or unearth a quality to their sounds that wasn’t evident prior. We most certainly saw this with Yeezus, in which Kanye tapped producers from the top of the mainstream (Rick Rubin) to the eerie depths of the underground (Arca) to create a sound that brought his natural anti-authoritarian and abrasive tone to the forefront, edited down to an undeniably incredible 38 minutes of music. Since then, rappers, bands, and singers have also brought on abstract electronic artists to bring new dimensions to their sounds. The Haxan Cloak, aka Yorkshire-born Bobby Krlic, is still relatively young in his career outside of his own solo project. But after serving as a producer on five records, it is clear that Krlic has a very specific approach towards the manipulation of sound.
As the Haxan Cloak, Krlic has refined a dark and cinematic sound via the manipulation of strings, mics, and laptop. Krlic fell in love with Hip-Hop and Electronica at a young age, but also developed a fondness for Drone Metal bands like Earth and Sunn O))). After having studied under sound artist Mikhail Karikis, Krlic managed blending academic sound manipulation processes with Techno, Hip-Hop, and Drone. Mish-mashing high and low, The Haxan Cloak’s sound is bracing, operatic, and at times terrifying. He finds his peers in the likes of David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti as much as he does artists like Ben Frost and Arca. His self-titled debut, released in 2011, is araw and atonal, using Experimental and Drone more palatably than he would on later releases. Excavation, released in 2013, is the grand summation of the Haxan Cloak’s sound. The extremity of his early sound is in place, but he also weaves in danceable beats and rhythms through a dense and cinematic undertone of sound.
Krlic is the rarest of Electronic music producers in his singularity. You can identify his sound almost immediately, which makes him both a valuable and intimidating collaborator. Nevertheless, artists are starting to tap Krlic for his unique sound and to try and identify something darker and more intense in their sounds. His first major production credit was with Portland Metal duo The Body, I Shall Die Here (2014). Krlic allowed the band to indulge its savage approach, but also applied heavy sound manipulation to the final product, which sounds like finding bliss within horror, and finds forebears in landmark Industrial Metal albums like Godflesh’s Pure.
Also in 2014, Krlic produced former Altar of Plagues’ singer James Kelly’s first solo album recorded under the WIFE moniker, entitled What’s Between. A massive departure from the Black Metal of Altar of Plagues, WIFE is simply Kelly singing over an electronic backdrop. For the record, Krlic propelled the album with a minimal bass thump and blissful swirls of synthesizers, resulting in a beautiful Goth-Pop album.
Though Arca produced most of Bjork’s 2015 record, Vulnicura, Krlic provided production on album standout Family. Using a crawl speed drum beat, the track features a swirl of string production, complete with a sweeping violin solo, that emphasizes the immense pain and need for catharsis expressed in Bjork’s lyrics: “Is there a place, where I can pay respects, for the death of my family?” Bjork belts in her lush alien voice. Family was written six months after Bjork broke up with Matthew Barney, and Krlic’s production highlights the pain still felt fresh from the dissolution of a family unit, but also providesa backdrop to Bjork’s yearning for healing. The song sounds both despaired and relieved.
Los Angeles-based Noise Rock HEALTH band went almost full Electro-Pop on last year’s Death Magic, and Krlic produced its introductory track, Victim. Krlic laid on a thick and dense electronic bass thud with screeching white noise for good measure. At two minutes, it’s the most memorable track on the whole record.
Perhaps his most out of character production, at this juncture, was his work on the new record by Manchester duo LUH. The band’s high-octane anthemic Indie Rock arrangements are new territory for Krlic. Nevertheless, LUH’s debut record released in May, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing, and its joyous chords are greatly bolstered by Krlic’s atmospheric production, harnessing a sound that is at times, wildly blissful.
Though his production career hasn’t been very long, it is easy to imagine Krlic becoming something of a modern day Abstract Electronics Steve Albini. Albini, of course, supports himself and his own band (Shellac) by lending his bare-bones agro engineering to a multitude of bands. Some he likes (High on Fire), some he probably doesn’t (Bush). But his production style is audible on every project he touches. Krlic could make the Haxan Cloak records for a long time through the money he makes producing for other artists, and it seems his dense production style makes sense for a wide variety of genres and styles of music.