Nick Fraser & Justin Haynes


Nick Fraser: drums, tapes
Justin Haynes: guitar and sound processing


(2004, Mutable Records)


The New Irony

iTunes – Nick Fraser and Justin Haynes Are Faking It

The Canadian duo of Nick Fraser (drums, tapes) and Justin Haynes (guitar, sound processing) takes electro-acoustic exploration to another level on this record. With many of the songs running under four minutes, the tracks are more like soundscapes than developed charts. That does not, of course, mean that the record is underdeveloped. In fact, the first track “overture”, clocking in at one minute and 16 seconds, is a very well thought-out spurt of acoustic ambience.

Although the album sounds extremely improvised, most of it was actually orchestrated. Fraser and Haynes work well together in an avant-garde style that could easily be hit or miss. Fraser’s playing on this record is less like that of a drummer and more of a percussionist. He moves around the drums like they are all individual voices, not a whole set. The drums, for Fraser, create sounds less than they create pure rhythms. Haynes’s musicianship is obvious. He is a virtuoso guitar player with tendencies toward colored chords and melodies over straight lines. And with Fraser’s accompaniment this fits extremely well.

“This Statement Is False”, the seventh track on the record, is tough to judge. It really took a few listenings to get into it. At first I was turned off by the two-minute cacophony of acoustic guitar and drums. But as I listened deeper I realized the irony of the track. It doesn’t take itself seriously and that made it make much more sense. These guys are serious avant-garde musicians, but they know there is room to laugh, even on a record like this.

“Pretending to Play Music”, the fifth track on the album, is the real opus. I would have loved to hear a whole album like that track. Haynes’ processing gives the chart a schizophrenic, textured feel. Fraser and Haynes both create an amazing visual with electronic and acoustic sounds. It’s as if Radiohead shut down all rock sentimentalities and decided to go off the deep end. The album is worth getting for this track alone, although there is an amazing amount of music on the whole thing.
Ryan McDermott, One Final Note

This talented duo of the innovative Fraser on drums and tapes and the imaginative Haynes on guitar and sound processing produces a dozen artful tunes – moody and murky and madly-meandering – that tell a listener they’re up to something, even if it’s not always clear what it is. They’re unlike others in this growing electronica field, delving into what might be a post-modern future.
Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star

The title sees to refer to the oft-held notion that improvisation is a suspect activity at best. Nick (drums) and Justin (guitar) may be faking something, but it sure doesn’t have anything to do with the music here. Nick sits solid, playing like he’s making a gourmet diner, while Justin spins, twists and pulls unbelievable sounds from his guitar.
Nilan Perera, Exclaim!, Best of 2004