The pieces on Love Retained were originally intended to form the basis of collaborations. This would explain why the piano often appears to be crouching down in a small portion of the stereo frame, or why chords seem to pause and await reply (to which only silence acknowledges receipt). Hawgood is ducking beneath violins that don’t exist yet, or asking questions of electronics that haven’t stepped into earshot; like an actor forced to interact with green screen, splashing the images of their imagination onto the unresponsive vertical surface. Nothing here has been edited or mastered. Hawgood hasn’t reshaped this music to remove the sensation of a solo voice engaged in an unrequited duet, and neither has he made effort to eradicate the occasional mistakes in timing or velocity (if they even be called “mistakes” once they’ve been intentionally committed to release). Love Retained is a person stretching out beyond the walls of their own world, faithfully awaiting the moment that the hand clasps upon fingers reaching forth from the opposite direction.
The liner notes candidly frame the album in the context of Hawgood’s own experiences with depression. These should be read from the source rather than paraphrased, but at one point Hawgood makes reference to the fact that he is unlikely to complete another full length record due to the great stress of constricting a creative process to a particular timeframe. In light of this, Love Retained becomes an act of acceptance, weaving compositional intention into the lattice of environmental factor and executional oversight, with sudden silences and tape warbles rendered permanent facets of a music that doesn’t require further correction and refinement. With each listen, the visible seams start to recede into a work that I wouldn’t wish to be any other way. Meanwhile, the silence – that green screen that stares back so vacantly at Hawgood’s little cursive signatures of harmony and repetition – ceases to feel so empty.