Assembling regularly at Wilton Way Studios in Hackney, East London, a loose and kinetic congregation of musicians commune regularly for the ecstatic joy of performing ensemble music. Twenty-five strong, they form a choir and accompanying instrumental group with roots in jazz, soundtrack and avant-garde music. Since early 2018 the group has been performing original compositions and re-workings of cult material from the late 60s and early 70s, a moment in musical history when groove and sonic experimentation were fertile bedfellows. In these troubled times, the group also seeks a devotional outlet: secular music made sacred in invocations for a more harmonised world.
It makes sense, then, that the centrepiece of the current Haha repertoire is David Axelrod’s 1970 album Earth Rot. The third in a trio of albums he produced for Capitol Records on the heels of the psychedelic era, it forecasts a man-made ecological disaster. With lyrics adapted by his son Matthew Axelrod from the Old Testament book of Isiah and an early Navajo creation legend, these “ancient yet timely words,” were a response to Axelrod’s vision of imminent end-times. The music is sweeping, expansive and rooted in heavy jazz grooves, with a dose of drama made possible by tightly orchestrated ensemble playing. The choral accompaniment is at times angelic, at others lamenting, with spoken word passages dubbed out for the psychedelic Armageddon.
The Haha Sounds repertoire also includes music by French Art Pop group Cortex, outward looking Americans Don Cherry and the World Experience Orchestra, and the soundtrack from Senegalese cult film Touki Bouki (1973).