Album Reviews

Spuken

With the changing of the leaves, there comes a stiff breeze that seems to cut through everything. During autumn and into the wailing infancy of winter, the chill defines the season. Nowhen does this seem as accurate as during Halloween. The chill crawls up and down your spine, sprinkled with drops of fear. Haunts by German Error Message captures the essence of autumn.

Haunts is the 5th album of engineer, producer, and musician Paul Kintzing. Recorded from 2012-2014, it was the last release of German Error Message before their 2019 LP MendHaunts has an 8-track, 20-minute runtime. 

Sure, this album has the acoustic guitars and vocals you would come to expect from an Indie Folk release. However, Paul’s instrumentation utilization offers a nice density to the music that keeps you engaged for the album’s length. Each moment doesn’t linger for long before folding into another texture.

Fall seems to bring change, reflection, and nostalgia. Other fall albums indicate “the chill” when justifying how cold their songs seem. Haunts understands the quicksilver of fall. With the brisk air comes the warm clothes with which you drape yourself. With the cold of Halloween night comes the warmth of chili dinners and wood fires. I enjoy how German Error Message explores fuzzy guitars, horns, and synths to accent the empty and cold moments. It offers the listeners a moment of reprieve from standing out in the rain.

Haunts isn’t a musical explosion, though. One of the most extraordinary things about the album is how Paul plays with how thin the music is. The dynamics of each instrument peak and fall at the perfect moments. A Lingering” and “A new sighing” are excellent examples of how Paul plays with the music’s density. Haunting acoustic guitars and droning strings tango throughout several 2-3 minute songs. 

Picture Credits to The Music Mermaid

It is unfair, though, to refer to Haunts as only a collection of songs. I think Haunts, foundationally, is a bottling of the essence of fall. It encapsulates the thrills and chills that one associates with autumn. Each song blends into the next, forming a larger picture. Plucking strings, ghoulish horns, freezing guitars, and whispering hi-hats rattle the structure of the album. The almost-exasperated vocals make you feel like the notes are barely sticking together, but they never fall apart. 

Haunts is a stunning cross between folk and slowcore—the structure of the songs and the album as a whole drive home emotion with authority. This platter of sound always leaves something to be discovered when returning for repeat listens to the record. At a foundational level, I believe Paul Kintzing sees how to make fantastic, impactful indie-folk. I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to experience fall through his eyes.

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