Updated: Jan 19
Released in early November on the See Blue Audio label, Steve Hadfield’s Displacement Activity Vol. 3 is a strange and oddly comforting trip through five tracks that fuse classical composition with modern ambient and experimental sound design. It is evocative of the new world we have found ourselves in since the beginning of this year; this strange year in which we had had much of our modern lives upended by the pandemic and natural disasters that have resulted in a tumultuous effect on our social and political lives. Through a combination of sounds and techniques, Hadfield strikes an uneasy balance between the conventional and the strange.
This odd balance is exemplified in tracks like Alone, Dark. This track effectively melds airy and slightly spooky tracks with a consistent rhythm that appears roughly halfway through the track, all while being accompanied by an odd assortment of percussion and a steady beep that appears to dissolve at times but never fully disappears. However, tracks such as Blossom is a Vector seem to keep the album from straying too far into leftfield with its soft rhythm, soothing pads, and keys playing a somewhat uplifting progression.
Hadfield also keeps close to his classical composition techniques with the track Ever Onward, which begins with a soft piano playing a piece reminiscent of the work of Mozart while accompanied by a warm and soft pad. However, this familiarity is soon broken by an oscillating noise that slowly overwhelms the track until the whole track fades out leaving us only with the noise. This feeds perfectly into the next track, Liminal Night Feeds; a track defined by a low rumbling noise floor, punctuated by dark subsonic thumps and accompanied by eerie pads with a strange and uncomfortable arpeggio that appears roughly halfway through the track.
The entire album was written at a time when the pandemic and social upheaval were both reaching their crescendos in this year and the feeling gleaned from this collection of tracks is quite reflective of this. Perhaps that is the logic behind the name of the open track Reflection; a spare ambient track with soothing pads and an odd texture that is akin to raindrops hitting a pane of glass. Whatever the reasoning, Displacement Activity Vol. 3 is a beautiful work of modern ambient composition that perfectly encapsulates the year that we have all had to live through and try to find a way to continue onward.