“Can This Even Be Called Music?” is our new series of music recommendation articles, brought to you by Dave Tremblay of the titular site, Can This Even Be Called Music! Dave covers a variety of unique, progressive and experimental music on his site, and we wanted to feature his writing on Heavy Blog to bring you some of the weirder, more curious music that we often tend to miss. This will be Dave’s column where he spreads the love for all the creative bands that he built his site on, so if you enjoy this, be sure to check his site as well!
OK so here’s an avant-garde quintet covering Meshuggah. That’s something I didn’t ask for, but for which I am eternally grateful. But before speaking at any more length of this really weird take on two crazy songs, let’s introduce Hexnut in due form. The contemporary music quintet formed in 2004 in the Netherlands, and is comprised of five soloists playing recorder, trumpet, contrabass flute, and piano, plus a singer with a variety of singing styles. The group plays mostly composed music, but with a tad of improvisation and theatrical techniques. Sometimes, the singer seems to use a technique known as Sprechgesang, speech-singing, that I became familiar with listening to Arnold Schoenberg’s cuckoo melodrama Pierrot Lunaire – don’t listen to this when you’re alone at home.
Most of Hexnut’s material touches the realms of avant-garde classical and metal, even though the instrumentation might be a bit odd for the latter. The variety of the songs range from the “Tools” series, a disparate suite of nine short and energetic pieces around, I guess, the overarching themes of obsolescence and one-trick-ponyism to which our seemingly handy everyday mechanical tools are subjected, to theatrical compositions such as “Annabel”, which truly highlights the wide range of vocal styles of singer Stephie Büttrich: impersonation, growls, and classical singing.
That piece alone will suck you into its short and intriguing children story written by Annie MG Schmidt, and with the guest presence of flutist Ned McGowan giving a truly magical feeling to it. The song “Wood Burn” is the one that sounds the most like a metal song – played by an angry chamber music ensemble, of course. In fact, I thought at first that this might be another one of their cover songs, but no. It’s an actually deranging composition that might be better understood by you and me if it was being played by a metal band. As I already said, almost everything on this album is fucking metal, and isn’t labeled as such just because of the different instrumentation.
Speaking of which, let’s finally got to those Meshuggah covers. Namely, “Soul Burn” and “The Exquisite Machinery of Torture”. They even got Fredrik Thordendal and Tomas Haake to guest and play…clean guitar and percussions of some sort? Yeah, it’s really strange, but that’s what we like about it. If you have never wondered what an avant-garde classical version of your favourite Meshuggah songs would sound like, well, here’s the answer anyway! Oh, and there’s also the Flintstones’s theme song in there, too!
Video of Soul Burn
Hexnut is a wonderfully eccentric and utterly bizarre album that you’ll have a lot of fun – among other feelings – listening to. Please put this music when friends and family are around, and just watch their interrogative gaze and swith response. It came out in 2007, which is a while ago, but I feel it’s still very much relevant – Meshuggah are still around, and avant-garde music is encroaching into metal more than ever.
As for the future of Hexnut, they are playing since at least 2011 their new Wrench project: a multimedia experience of music and photography. They really seem to put a lot of importance into both facets of this project so I doubt they will put out an audio disc release. Perhaps a CD with extensive booklet for the pictures, or a DVD for the slideshow, or the band playing in front of it, could be an interesting alternative. Nevertheless, here’s the trailer for it.
Video of Wrench trailer.
I hope you enjoyed this!