Hadoken were an odd outfit. Describing themselves as “elemental instrumental music,” their style is an intriguing mix of the instantly appealing and seemingly intentionally obtuse. Whatever initial skepticism a song named “The True Forest” (containing three individually-named sections, no less) may arouse, the structuring of these pieces is by no means arbitrary, but rather very much inspired by the rich complexity of classical music or film scores.
RELEASE DATE: 08 January 2016 LABEL: Self-released
RECOMMENDED TRACK: The True Forest
The use of the violin as a full-fledged component of the band immediately sets Hadoken´s sound apart from the majority of other similar music out there. While many bands include string arrangements as yet another layer, seemingly tacked on somewhere post-tracking, the violin comes to the fore here. This lends a folkloric quality to Hadoken, much as it does in the band´s previous efforts as well. However, this is a much more ambitious outing, relying heavily on context and continuity. Fortunately, indulging the band in their love of all things related to nature comes easily thanks to the immersive instrumentation and skillful pacing of the album. From the beginning of “Irankarapte (let me touch your heart, softly),” the birdsong in the background lets us know exactly what the band are going for. The frail reverb of the opening guitar dissipates quickly, giving an organic sound to the guitar work. It also suggests close spaces, something that works extremely well with the general woodland theme of the album.
“Inkarapte” transitions into the opening drone of “Tsrna Gora,” gradually giving way as the brush clears and we let ourselves fall into the role of a wanderer in a sweeping, verdant expanse. This is the motif I keep finding myself returning to, as this album begs to be played start to finish on an open-air stage under the stars (an unlikely prospect, as the band have long since disbanded). The evenly-spaced instrumentation really envelops the listener – not in a Jakob-esque wave of delay and miscellaneous feedback, but rather in a vibrant palette of melodies that glide past one another, never competing for their place in the sunlight.
The latter half of the song kicks up the tempo a few notches, and it employs the tremolo-picked countermelodies typical to most post-rock of this style more than anywhere else on the album. “The True Forest” takes us to a calmer place, with the softer guitars playing the fireflies to the cool breeze of the violin. Then, things take an ominous turn – around the four-minute mark, the band bring things to a brief but immediate halt. The subsequent passage, “Tigerboss,” delivers a tense transition, as the pounding of the toms leads into the dense tropical brush of “Jungle,” the song’s final segment. The proverbial wanderer is now well and truly lost, the closing ambience of “True Forest” fading into the uneasy “Shadow People.” Our initial reticence turns into pure dread, as the wanderer suddenly finds himself in a hostile, foreboding environment. The listener is reminded of predators in the night, the hunters alluded to in the song’s title, circling the listener for several minutes before closing in for the kill. The riffing at 16 minutes in feels positively tribal – sacrificial even, with the closing minutes of the song ushering in the final, inevitable return to nature.
As you can tell, this music provokes the imagination, and my own interpretation of what the album may represent will differ from your own. This speaks to the quality of songwriting – Hadoken don’t cut any corners, finding intriguing means of carrying the song forward where others might fall back on hackneyed convention. The instant appeal of opener “Irankarapte” does wonders to hold the listener’s attention for the rest of the album, which takes its time to build and is initially somewhat inconspicuous. One nitpick: Although the overall production is competently executed and serves the album’s theme well, the tracks do suffer from a somewhat limited range of volume at times. While this is a very minor complaint, and one that I didn’t notice until repeated listens, it does affect the momentum critical for the staying power of such long, epic pieces.
The most endearing aspect of Hadoken is that it provokes the mind to wander. It immerses the listener in soundscapes that depict a journey through diverse natural environments, and while it certainly makes for a pleasant background music, it deserves and rewards the listener’s undivided attention. Add this band to the list of those that left us too soon – I would have been absolutely thrilled to see them live.
*As Hadoken are no longer around, their entire discography (1 EP and 3 LPs) can be purchased at Bandcamp for $8 – highly recommended*