Review: Hair Clinic – Mirror in a Bag (self-released, Mar 30)

I certainly spend a great deal of my time curating, writing, analyzing, concluding, etc., but as I’m sure is also true for many of you, listening is and always has been my top priority. Thus, my root source for all non-listening activities is listening: why do I enjoy this? What does it make me think about? Recently much of my attention lies with the burgeoning practice of “non-music,” a term that has always existed but now refers to a much more unified tradition of artful mundanity. I personally believe assigning names to genres is perfectly fine in order to simplify discourse, but this particular descriptor comes with concessions that must be made. First, as is this case for the title of this site as well, I don’t view any organized or presented sound, no matter how subversive of convention, as “not music.” Non-music refers to the extreme removal of these auditory results from what is commonly considered to be music, and does not argue against their actual musicality. It’s also important to recognize the back-endedness of assigning genre names. It’s reductive to assume that artists produce their work with these things in mind, so any and all arbitrary classification must refer to the works when they are actually observed; thematic/aesthetic unification instead of individual suppression.

To preface a review of such a short release with such a verbose disclaimer may seem odd, but I hope I’ve made clear that this sort of music is some of the most rich and thought-provoking art being produced today, so to me, no level of analysis seems too excessive. Hair Clinic is a project that like many others I know very little about. Their artist photo on Bandcamp appears to be one of those stroke simulation images, which display an assortment of nonsensical, distorted objects that nonetheless look familiar. The music on Mirror in a Bag, unsurprisingly, can be similarly described: the six diminutive tracks make use of the subdued domestic fanfare with which I’m sure we’ve all become quite well acquainted recently: squeaking chair legs, creaking furniture, old squealing hinges, backyard nature-symphonies, running water. There’s something mysteriously infectious about these recordings; I’m constantly coming back to it like some sort of sonic surveyor, unconsciously trying to identify and place each sound within its environment. Mirror in a Bag is meditative home life fragmented into small but well-formed pieces, each shard enough its own to be recognizable yet jagged enough to always remind us of the glaring absence of the whole. If you’re able to listen more passively, this enigmatic debut is a sublime dose of household improvisation, but if you (like me) are inclined to dig deeper, beneath the surface lurks a deceptively vast depth of ambiguity to excavate.