Richmond-based multi-faceted Victor Haskins recently released his new album Showing Up. It’s Haskins first album in six years since The Truth his debut record back in 2013.
Haskins main performing projects are “Victor Haskins & Moving Sound Pictures” and “Victor Haskins’ Skein”.
In Victor Haskins’ Skein (a tangle of threads or a flock of wild geese or swans in flight, typically in a V-shaped formation) he works alongside Randall Pharr on bass, Tony Martucci on drums, with Haskins on cornet and EWI/sound design. Across the ten compostions on Showing Up the trio form a tight knit to deliver ten highly original textured tracks.
Below, Haskins takes us through his beautiful new record.
“Touch”, the opening track, is an ode to intimacy. No matter the nature of the touch in question, whether a romantic, platonic, angry or violent touch, to be close enough to someone to touch them is a profoundly intimate act. A surreal, almost dreamlike vibe is created with the reverb and light, occasional digital filtering on Haskins’ cornet, Martucci’s shimmery, washy cymbals, and the delicate, firm pizzicato of Pharr’s bass.
“Grey” is the first piece featuring Haskins’ sound design with the EWI. This tune originally appears in an all-acoustic quintet setting on The Truth, and gets an all-new life here on Showing Up. “Grey” is the fictional story of a hero (named Grey) and their journey in a post-apocalyptic/disaster-torn world. Within the Skein ensemble, roles, textures, and environments shift and coalesce to manifest different fates that befall Grey, and from the vantage points of different narrators.
Reliving the Past
Haskins says, “the melody which became “Reliving the Past” was conceived the night before my grandfather’s funeral while we stayed at my grandparents’ house in West Virginia. The quasi-march rhythmic underpinning represents the (then) present moment whilst I stayed at the house awaiting the funeral—somber, reflective. In contrast to this, I fondly remember first seeing the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” while my family watched TV together in my grandparents’ living room during one holiday trip when we had visited long ago. Flashing back to these warm, familial vibes I experienced in that memory, and others like it is represented by the danceable backbeat section. Vacillating between the two contrasting grooves throughout serves to create a “flashback” vibe (between the present, and distant memories), and the title alludes to this function (as well as obliquely referencing the title of the Jackson song).”
“Swift”, as the title suggests, is a lithe, agile vignette which takes the listeners around a variety of unpredictable and sharp turns. The pacing evokes a chase scene, or maybe even the journey to an appointment where one is in danger of being late. Sprint…experience indecision…run quickly…sprint again…(falsely) believe you have plenty of time, and walk…realize you were mistaken, and return to sprinting again!
Five In The Pocket
“Five in the Pocket” is a tongue-in-cheek title—having just five (fingers) in your pocket, with a bounce in your step, and walking around in this manner is synonymous with being and feeling “cool” and in your element. Comfortable in your skin. Of course, being truly comfortable in one’s own skin doesn’t mean that the mood will always be relaxed, or that it makes sense to only “go with the flow”. The intensity builds slowly, calmly, and logically, eventually simmering up to fulfill a foreshadowed climax, akin to “losing one’s cool” and maybe wrinkling their suit, only to immediately become self-aware and regain composure, and returning the “five” to the pocket. The openness and freedom of the intermingling acoustic elements in “Morning” act as a fine contrast to follow the intense and raucous “Five in the Pocket”. This is the musical embodiment of the gradual awakening of body and spirit, the metaphorical acceptance of the gift of another day of life. One can almost feel the sun burst through the window and warm their face and heart.
Enemy At The Gate
“Enemy at the Gate” is the result of a sleep paralysis-inducing nightmare. Haskins says, “After getting a scant amount of sleep for many nights, I was up late while doing some work on my bed. I was so tired that I fell asleep and didn’t know it, and this is usually when I have the weirdest dreams. I “awoke” to fierce banging on my bedroom door—it sounded as though someone were trying to force their way in. I tried to do something to prepare myself for an attack, but to no avail—I had no control of my body. I just stayed put involuntarily. The knocking and feeling of impending doom only intensified, until I thought the door was about to burst open, and then I actually awoke and regained control of my faculties.”
“Spite” comes from a similar vein as “Enemy at the Gate”. The two tunes deal with dark subject matter in very different ways. Whereas “Enemy” uses complex, highly-syncopated and slippery rhythms amongst an asymmetrical form to tell its tale, Spite is rooted in a more meditative and disturbed quality. The brooding, ostinato bass line anchors the angular, acerbic melodies from the horn as the percussion goads and exacerbates the collective mood. At various times, each of the members of the Skein flips into a different role, at once destabilizing, and then driving, and suddenly attacking, all the while moving the story forward to unpredictable places.
“The Aura” is a theme song composed for himself (Haskins), if he was a character in the movie Sin City. This movie has a peculiar vibe to it as a result of the animation style in which was produced (rotoscoping) and the color scheme, which is grayscale throughout the entire movie.
“Psithurism” ends our journey. Psithurism is an archaic term which refers to the sound the wind makes as it rustles the leaves of trees. In this final tale, the listener assumes the perspective of a small group of leaves on a blustery day. The strong winds blow the leaves every which way, taking them high, low, and everywhere in between, moving ever-forward and upward. Buoyant, forceful, and free-flowing. All the while, the leaves continue to speak…
Showing Up is out now. Buy here.