Review: James Hazel – Concessions (for my father) (Precarious Texts, Jun 9)

I first want to acknowledge that Concessions (for my father), James Hazel’s new release, made me aware of a new imprint/project called Precarious Texts, which pledges to become “a space that re-turns [sic] to and re-emphasises “class” as part of the intersectional prism and supports practices within these spaces.” In a time where socioeconomic stratification is more ingrained than ever, there can never be too much acknowledgement of the  reality in which we reside. Hazel concedes that while making Concessions he was “located in relatively stable space/time” in objective terms; instead, the qualifying precarity in his life is an emotional one, an empathic one, formed by the deep connection Hazel feels to his immediate family, his ancestors, and the countless marginalized workers that have fought the same battles long before him. The exhaustion and defeat, the enshrouding malaise, the tiny beaten and battered beams of hope of the oppressed existence are translated to sound through minimal groupings of sources and an old tape recorder. Hazel’s frail transmissions hang in the dusty air with aching grace, slowly dissipating into blankets of soft whispers and woozy warbling. This album is a masterclass in evoking emotional weight via entirely abstract means. I was brought to tears several times by the volatile feedback currents in “Sensual Objects”—it’s one thing to absorb the sadness from an affecting lyric or somber melody, but it’s entirely another to feel unnameable emotions well up from the depths of yourself when witnessing something whose sorrowful beauty you can’t even describe.