Dustin Haiar is a solo musician based in Austin, TX. He has been playing guitar for two decades, and that dedication to music really shows through in everything he creates. He has been in bands off and on since 2000, but that all changed just under a decade ago. In 2008, Haiar took a departure from his role in other bands and decided that he had the talent and determination to make it alone. He decided to record a solo acoustic album vexed and here it is nine years later.
This short eight-track album opens with “Continental Drift.” A single chord is strummed and left hanging in the atmosphere for what seems an eternity. Then, unexpectedly, an acoustic guitar pattern emerges in the mix. An eerie, ethereal synth line whirs and chugs in the background, reminiscent of Pink Floyd or perhaps even Radiohead’s occasional leaps into folk/country-esque acoustic balladry. There’s so much for the listener to sink their teeth into here that it’s hard to know where to really begin. Haiar creates an ominous, moody atmosphere. It’s dark and disturbing.
The complex arpeggios wrap around one another, and it becomes almost impossible to tell how many guitars are playing; Haiar has such talent when it comes to fluctuating between simplicity and complexity in his guitar playing that it really doesn’t matter either way. It sounds otherworldly; you hardly think about the human who had to create and perform this music. A rapidly strummed guitar line towards the end echoes atop the guitar arpeggio and sounds almost like some distant buzzing insect furiously flapping its wings in synchronization.
Barely giving the listener time to catch their breath, “Spanish Séance” opens with another dark, moody acoustic line; this time, slowly chugging, rugged chords form the basic foundation and structure of this song. Spanish-esque guitar patterns, much as the title suggests, dominate the track. Rapidly strummed guitar lines lay atop the slowly chugging guitar chords lying at the bottom of the track. There’s a period in the middle of this three-minute track (which feels a heck of a lot longer due to Haiar’s playing style) during which things slow down to a state of complex simplicity. It’s hard to explain. Things are quieter, tamer and less frantic, but there’s still so much depth to the song.
“Horizon” adopts a change in style. A soothing chord progression is rapidly strummed, and the entire song feels as if it is the atmospheric backdrop to a car journey through a mysterious forest. There is beauty but also the fear of the unknown here. Then a burst of sunshine streams through the trees. Things slow down as twinkling guitar patterns strum in a much more upbeat, relaxed and hopeful tune.
These moments are fleeting, as Haiar frequently fluctuates between the frantic, ominous chord patterns and gentler moments of reflection and tranquility, but they are there nonetheless. It’s truly an instrumental piece which paints a picture for the listener; it’s a forest for me, but it may be the otherworldly nature of outer space for you. There’s tension and an ominous depth to the music, either way. It induces a multitude of ideas and feelings in the listener.
While an acoustic songwriter for the most part, Haiar does dabble in a multitude of sonic effects. Occasional bursts of atmospheric and distant synthetic noises add additional depth, mystery, and an inhuman intrigue to tracks. It’s definitely worth a listen.
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