Hagan Knauth's latest album is an ode to nature's grand design. A tapestry of acoustic-sounding guitar plucks, soft background coos, instrumental layering, and equal measures of psychedelia and woodsy, folk-inspired melodies. His songs have the feel of wide open spaces; there's an echoing quality that unassumingly slinks its way into so many of his tracks, a sense of resonance that fuels this notion of freedom in vast expanses. The lush acres of upstate New York that served as Knauth's childhood playground clearly left a strong imprint, a one-with-nature stance that's trickled into both his music and current lifestyle in Brooklyn.
Under the artistic pseudonym Mood Tattooed, Knauth's latest piece of work, Hush Tarantula, comes across as a freestyle Bildungsroman—a journey of growth, exploration, and self-discovery that comes with the peaceful introspection of basking in the near-perfect symmetry of the wild. Each track bustles with unconventional garnishes and sonic accents that have often been filtered through a synthesizer for a strikingly offbeat effect. It's a balance of intimacy and buzz that feels like a forest chorus feeding off an amiable chaos. And even in this free-for-all setting, there's still a sense that every detail is in its rightful place.
So often, psychedelia is tied to the decade of its burgeoning heyday. The 1960s were a politically-charged time, riddled with social strife and halting strides towards justice. Yet still, when we think of psych-rock and it's modern variations, there's that quick flit to Woodstock and it's mud-splattered acid trip. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn't seem to be the path that Knauth has taken with the genre. The out-of-body, higher-plane experience that he alludes to is much more rooted in the spiritual than a synthetic tablet. His opening track, "Lamplight," is a quick (roughly one minute) taste of what lies ahead. In lieu of audible lyrics there are staccato breaths, with the reverberating ting of a metal guitar string acting as the prominent instrumental accompaniment. It's a song that gives an inkling of something new, somewhere between the tinkering chords and introductory gasps of life.
Then there's "Shelly Ripple," which is rich with sonic versatility. It's folk meets eclectic synth, opening with Knauth's layered vocals, "I'm warming up to you," before plunging into a smorgasbord of sound. There are cameos of fluttering falsettos and an electronically-manipulated baritone, which appears beside hollow hand percussion and a rattlesnake kind of shimmy. It’s a multifaceted track that envelops, a ritual that thrives off unexpected textures. It alternates between lyrics and a stuttering sort of language that we wouldn't immediately recognize. And yet, it still has the air of a welcome invitation.
Knauth’s album is a force to be reckoned with. It pulses with unpredictability and a sense of wonder, and it'll leave you itching for a taste of life outside the city.