Hawak Screams Through Asian American Alienation in ‘realign’
Welcome to Pass the Aux, where KQED Arts & Culture brings you our favorite new tracks by Bay Area artists. Check out past entries and submit a song for future coverage here.
Oakland four-piece Hawak dropped their debut album nÆ°á»c in August after two years of delays. It’s a lean, sub-30 minute introduction to their screamo meets post-rock style. Their songs pause between furious hardcore freak-outs to sit with a melody or an atmosphere, like a boat in the calm between waves.
Hawak (Tagalog for âholdingâ) has Vietnamese American and Filipino American members, and they continue the decades-long Bay Area tradition of path-breaking Southeast Asian hardcore acts. NÆ°á»c means âwaterâ in Vietnamese, an allusion to the journey of Vietnamese refugees, or âboat people,â fleeing the consequences of the end of the Vietnam War. Hawak uses the story of the refugees to anchor the albumâs themes of pain, alienation and social justice.
The albumâs opener, ârealign,â is Hawakâs thesis statement. It begins with the gentle warbling of the Vietnamese one-string zither, or ÄÃ n báº§u, recorded from a busker at Fruitvale Station. Roaring power chords interrupt the scene and bring in the main lyric, delivered at the hoarsest, loudest pitch possible: âtreading tradition / to see / if a path clears.â After two minutes of pure energy, the track gives way to a quiet archival recording of a former South Vietnamese soldier recounting their betrayal at the hands of the American government.
Itâs a dense, heady first salvo, as appropriate for an album like nÆ°á»c. The record dodges the adjectives lazily applied to hardcore music like ârawâ or âangryâ to sit with ambivalent feelings like confusion and aimlessness. The album asks, circles around and fails to answer the concluding question of ârealign:â âCan I find a way to a place I can call home?â
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