Archives for category: Phonography

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Cévennes
MARC NAMBLARD, OLIVIER NAMBLARD
(Kalerne 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

Where to start? With the premise, the content, the quality, the beauty? Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. To the set the scene for the delights that await every listener who purchases this wonderful set.

Walk, wait, wander, return and remember

 ‘Cévennes’ is a stunning collection of field recordings from the Massif Central region of France, an elevated expanse of land that runs from the centre to the south of the country. Informed by familiarity, memory and fondness, these selected sound portraits were drawn from a much larger archive of recordings from respected “audio-naturalists and listening wanderers”, Marc and Olivier Namblard. Add to this the curatorial expertise of Yannick Dauby and you know you’re in for a treat.

The recordings themselves are varied, engaging, perfectly judged and expertly implemented. Spread over two CDs, this fine collection offers over two hours of the most exquisite listening. Birds, mammals, insects, amphibians and  environmental phenomena take their seats in this most fabulous natural orchestra, each track a movement in the overall symphony that celebrates the sounds of this spectacular landscape.

It’s so difficult to highlight particular recordings when all are equally worth of mention. Some are particularly special though. ‘Bouldras’, for example, is an absolute triumph. The wingbeats of Griffon Vultures as they congregate around carrion are reminiscent of heavy sails unfurling in the breeze. You can almost hear each individual feather.

Immerse your ears in a bouquet of heather…

The minuscule delicacies of stridulating grasshoppers and the purring wingbeats of hawk-moths, featured in ‘Adreit’ and ‘Poussiels’, are great ambassadors for the sonic potential that lies within the invertebrate domain.

Even the steady footfall of the humble cow is transformed into a work of art. Conversations within the herd, feeding in the soft grass, are joined by the “fleeting acid verse” of a nearby Corn Bunting and the churring advertisements of a bush-cricket, creating a pastoral scene of the highest order.

The collection closes with the ethereal ‘Bisa’. The gusting adventures of a powerful wind sweeping across the plateau are gradually accompanied by the hypnotic Aeolian drone of vibrating wires and fences.

As I listen to the collection again I realise that words alone cannot do justice to ‘Cévennes’. I could easily sing the praises of each recording but it still wouldn’t be enough. You need to hear these recordings, to sit back and revel in this faultless tribute to a land that holds a special place in the hearts of these two exceptional recordists.

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[Olivier and Marc Namblard]

Olivier Namblard discography
Marc Namblard website
Kalerne website 

nogr*baga

Vaccabons et malfactours
FRÉDÉRIC NOGRAY -working with recordings by Cédric Peyronnet-

(Kaon 2013)

Review by David Vélez

I

There is a strong level of intention in the action of recording environmental sounds. This intention is expressed in aspects like the subject of the recording, the kind of microphones used, the place where the microphones are placed in the field, the hour of the day chosen to record, the time of the year where the recordings were made…etc…etc….

But at the same time recording environmental sounds is a very contemplative action; on every environmental recording we are capturing seconds, minutes and hours of incidental randomness.

But, what makes for random and organic textures, patterns and structures to be so potentially appealing? This is a good question that Psychoacoustics have in a way answered, linking for example the songbirds with the origins of human language. I personally think that the lack of communicating purpose and intention that we find in these random forms is actually what makes them appealing and even meaningful. The absence of ideas and words in their forms allows the listener to explore things in a different way, leading him to bear a more universal and yet personal sense of things.

II

‘La Rivière CD series…Using the sound bank designed by Cédric Peyronnet, who recorded the nuances of Taurion River and its valley for 3 years, in Limousin, sound artists offer their interpretations through a series of compositions. Artists were asked to work on the composition of a sound piece created using the provided recordings or on the composition of a sound piece inspired by listening to the sound provided and consultation of the accompanying documents.’
-From Kaon’s website

Frédéric Nogray has established today as one of the notable sound composers working with untreated recordings of wild life and other natural areas, but in ‘Vaccabons et malfactours’ (part of ‘La Riviere’ series) Nogray limited to equalize, edit and layer preexistent recordings captured by Peyronnet six years ago.

This is a very nice release that, despite of the potential layering, presents itself in an austere documental manner, sounding very realistic and believable.

The area around the Taurion river is probably very quiet and soothing as most of the recordings suggest but Nogray also included recordings that show a louder and harsher aspect of this location; the noisy captures probably belong to heavy rain or a fast-flowing part of the river and these sounds add a great sense of contrast to the piece. There is always a level of eeriness and darkness to a quiet place that, when taken into account, offers depth and mystery to the listener’s experience.

The quality of the sound here is noteworthy, the fine sounds captured by Peyronnet were greatly worked by Nogray who managed to bring out the textures to a very bright and crisp level that I greatly enjoyed; a great work for those interested on environmental recordings with a little fictional twist.

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[Fréderic Nogray]

Frédéric Nogray website
Kaon website

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Strata. TARAB -Eamon Sprod-
(Unfathomless 2013)

Review by Caity Kerr

‘Strata’ is described as having been created from recordings made in a series of vacant lots and their immediate surrounds in the north-west of Melbourne.

The first thing that strikes the listener is the range of well-chosen sounds, all easy on the ear, nothing too harsh or unpleasant, no frequencies that strip the enamel off your teeth, no subs which threaten the cones on your precious speakers. In contrast with the locations used to gather the sounds, the overall impression is of a very ‘clean’ album, highly polished. The balance of dynamics, attention to pace and flow, all the orthodoxies of good composition, make the album almost classical in a compositional sense. Add to this various crossfading techniques with some well-crafted staggered dropouts and you have an effective tension between what I’d call thoroughly contemporary environmental sound gathering and a measured and conventional approach to putting the sounds together.

The sounds are easy enough to describe to the inner ear: a variety of recognisable or almost recognisable continuous sounds, some with lots of human agency, others resembling trains and the like, and occasionally sudden intrusions in the form of metallic timbres for example – one would imagine that these timbres are derived from objects found on site, activated for their rich sonic properties.

As with many other examples of this kind of work, the soundscape is visually evocative. Such work lends itself very well to the entertainment of audiences who like to relax, listen deeply and let the mind wander to the music. So the real question for me is how else can we hear this kind of music other than on cd? It’s fine to be able to relax in one’s domestic environment and to listen on one’s chosen equipment, but I’ve always thought that the potential strength of this kind of work, apart from pleasing the ears if it’s good work, is to be found in the possibilities for uplifting and even edifying in a social listening context, situations where people can discuss and share impressions after the listening event. Certainly not the concert hall or the grungy club (so I’m already going against the grain by asking for something which isn’t so fashionable but is eminently human and probably timeless), something approaching an appropriate and rewarding listening environment. I think we need to be asking where and under which conditions we should be looking to improve the opportunities for composers of this kind of work, composers who offer well-crafted good new non-instrumental, non-genre or trend-driven music of this era.

tarab

Eamon Sprod website
Unfathomless website

Blowhole2 copy$

2013: The year in retrospective. Part I -TESSA ELIEFF-

Text, images and sound by Tessa Elieff

Download ‘Caris Clocks’ by TESSA EILEFF

Download ‘Craster Blowhole’ by TESSA EILEFF

Recording excursion snapshot: Sound gathering on England’s North East coastline.

In early November of 2013 I found myself in the town of Alnwick, north Northumberland, England. After finishing a week intensive with Chris Watson – rather than moving on to the next opportunity – I had decided to stay in the area and give myself more time to understand its community and discover its unique sounds. Time is a luxury – particularly when travelling and it’s only too easy to miss the experience that lies around you in order to jump ahead into the future potential. I didn’t want this to be such an instance and so, at the time where the tourist attractions close down for the year, their subsequent crowds filter out of the townships and the wintering wildlife filters in, I settled in the market town of Alnwick.

Blowhole

Preparation:

Weatherproof clothing was a must. I do in fact own a few beanies and big jackets but nothing that would actually keep you warm – living in Australia – there are very few occasions when you would need it. While it was not quite Winter in England, the morning frost had arrived along with typical coastline weather of wind, rain and hail. Keeping your fingers warm as you monitor a recording device and fitting your headphones over a beanie can be the deciding factors as to weather or not you are able to persevere the elements and collect that one recording….

Clothing for this trip included

1) Thermal tops and bottoms (@ the heaviest weight)

2) Thick socks

3) Water resistant bushwalking boots. These were not waterproof but still did the job and were much needed when clambering over the slippery stones and volcanic rocks to be found on the coastline. Sneakers (no matter how sturdy) would not have sufficed!

4) Fingerless gloves (for warmer days)

5) Whole gloves – touch screen sensitive

6) Beanie: Thick enough to keep you warm and sleek enough to accommodate headphones

7) Pants: Wind/waterproof and lined for the cold. It’s worth mentioning that ‘ladies’ pants are not as practical as the ‘men’s’. Their waistlines are lower (don’t keep you as warm) and the cut more fitted (restricts your movements and pocket potential!)

8) Coat: Down to the knee and up to the chin. Downer lined with weatherproof shell and hood.

Specific townships along the North East coastline where I recorded include Craster, Boulmer and Newton-by-the-Sea.  The nature of these places required equipment such as their tide tables and explorer maps as GPS and phone signal often disappears and their tides remain master of shore access. RE: the maps – I’d recommend a scale of 1:25 000 (4cm to 1km), which typically is used for walking and the level of detail is ideal for exploring the areas by foot and car. The tide tables are essential for ensuring your safety – particularly as the coastline is dotted with volcanic stone formations that appear and disappear along with the changing tides. It’s very easy to lose yourself in recording only to look up half an hour later and find yourself marooned. I also found that knowing when the tides would be shifting helped inform me of the best times to explore specifically, blowholes and rock pools.

Caris Clocks2 copy

The final recording collection includes sounds of the township and of it’s surrounding natural environment. The most dominant contributor would be the ocean itself. There was not a single day that I visited the shoreline to hear the same sounds – even if the weather was much identical – the ocean’s voice was completely different. It was a pleasure and a torment – so much to capture but never able to capture it all! I was torn between using spaced omni microphones to gather the complete soundscape, or paired cardioid’s to illustrate the beautiful movements between left and right extremities – between a hyper cardioid to focus on a single point species and on contact microphones – to unearth the rumble running through a surface. If I could have recorded each select moment with all of the above I would have undoubtedly done so – but these are the creative decisions we make as a Field Recordist are they not?

Caris Clocks copy

On return to Australia I am haunted by my usual thoughts of sounds I did not think to capture at the time – or could have perhaps – made that extra effort to gather. None-the-less, as I work through what I did collect, I am transported back to Alnwick and enjoy the sounds of such a place, from far-away Australia. Here’s a snippet. Enjoy.

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[Tessa Elieff]

Tessa Elieff website

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Yoi. DAVID VÉLEZ, SIMON WHETHAM
(Unfathomless 2013)

Review by Flavién Gillie

En avril 2011 David Velez invite Simon Whetham à animer un workshop de field recording en Colombie, c’est le début d’un voyage. S’en suit une excursion dans la forêt amazonienne, les deux artistes enregistrent leur égarement, la nuit profonde et ô combien inhospitalière. Ce disque nous rappelle que l’extrême limite, le point de syncope est toujours le plus important. On repense bien sûr à Geir Jenssen escaladant le mont Cho Oyu au Tibet, son manque de souffle enregistré sur minidisc en approchant du sommet. Le parallèle se fait ici, sur un point de presque disparition, l’enregistrement devient un possible témoignage de sa propre perte, prise de conscience de sa fragilité.

Chaque artiste relate ici à sa façon de cet état de perte, David Velez entasse, stratifie, la faune est convoquée, les insectes bourdonnent au plus près des microphones, les éléments s’en mêlent, une pluie torrentielle vient ajouter de la difficulté à s’en sortir.

Simon Whetham est plutôt dans une approche de coupes franches, des cris font écho lointain, mais sont vite filtrés, retraités, comme pour mettre un voile devant la crudité de la scène, le lit d’une rivière est exploré avec, on suppose, des micros hydrophones, métaphore moderne du pêcheur à la traine, laissant dériver sa ligne, réécoutant après-coup ce que ses récepteurs auront entendu.

Les deux pièces, assez différentes dans leur traitement quand bien même elles ont un matériau de base recueilli dans une unité de temps et de lieu témoignent ici de la singularité de cette expérience, elles deviennent complémentaires sur l’album, solidaires comme ont certainement dû l’être les deux artistes pour ne pas définitivement s’égarer au coeur de la jungle.

Aujourd’hui il fait tempête, c’est bientôt le jour des morts. C’est une période propice au recueillement, on pense à tous ceux qui sont partis.

Puis il y a ce disque, une trace sonore de ce qui aurait pu être un drame, on l’écoute intensément, on y reviendra souvent.

!!!!

[David Vélez left, Simon Whetham right, photo Lina Velandia]

Translation to English -by Sismophone-

April 2011: David Velez invites Simon Whetham to host a field recording workshop in Colombia, the start of a trip. Follows a hike in the amazonian forest, both artists records their wandering, in a deep and how inhospitable night. This disc reminds us that the extreme limit, the point of syncope, is by far the most important. One recalls Geir Jenssen climbing Mount Cho Oyu in Tibet, recording his breathlessness on minidisc while reaching the summit. There is a parallel to make, about a state of near disappearance, the recording becoming a possible witness of it’s own loss, as a crucial consciousness of it’s fragility.

Each artist narrates in it’s own style this state of loss, David Velez piles, stratifies, convening fauna, insects buzzing as inside microphones, the elements playing a part, a cloudburst adding some difficulty to achieve.

Simon Whetham rather lays in a mood of drastic cuts, yells are remote echoes, though quickly filtered, reshaped, as to draw a veil over the crudeness of the scene, a riverbed is explored with, one imagines, hydrophones, modern metaphor of the angler with it’s drifting fishing line, listening again afterwards what his receptor’s ears caught.

The two pieces, quite different in their approach although sharing a common base material gathered in a time and space unit, witness the singularity of this experience, they are complementary on the disc, tightly bound as must have been the two artists to avoid getting totally lost in this deep jungle.

Today, there is a storm, soon comes All Souls ‘Day. This is an appropriate time for reverence, one remembers those gone now. And there is this disc, a sound trace of what could have been a tragedy, one listens intensely to it, often coming back to it.

David Velez website
Simon Whetham website
Unfathomless website 

gruen!

Sound Atmospheres of the Colombian Orinoquia
JOSÉ RICARDO DELGADO FRANCO
(Gruenrekorder 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

For somebody like me, who has never ventured outside of Europe before, the opportunity to sit back and listen to the sounds of tropical ecosystems is always something I relish. So when I saw that our friends over at Gruenrekorder were releasing a selection of Colombian soundscapes, I just had to take this one on.

Field recordist and sound artist José Ricardo Delgado Franco is the man responsible for this fine collection. In 2013 he spent two weeks exploring and recording the different ecosystems found within Colombia’s Orinoquia Natural Region – savannah, gallery forests and wetlands. Focusing on the Meta department, Franco recorded the natural sounds of this vast landscape from dawn to dusk and on into the night. The end result is a compilation of seven soundscapes that allow us to get a sense of the habitats visited and species encountered. An additional recording, made in Tuparro National Natural Park two years earlier, complements the set.

So many wonderful sounds are experienced when listening to Franco’s selection. Alien to my ears, these unknown voices fill me with curiosity. What species is making that sound? Is it a bird, or maybe an amphibian? Some species have been identified – the notes tell us that we are hearing the calls of Tufted Capuchins and Red Howler Monkeys for example – and I think this is an important addition. This information reminds us that these are not just “exotic” noises that sound nice but are the voices of living, breathing animals that vocalise for a reason, just like we do, and are essential to the correct functioning of that habitat.

José Ricardo Delgado Franco is a field recordist with obvious talent. ‘Sound Atmospheres of the Colombian Orinoquia’ introduces the listener to the many sounds of this region, giving us a glimpse into Colombia’s rich biodiversity and reminding us of the need to preserve this unspoilt land.

gruen-jr

[José Ricardo Delgado]

José Ricardo Delgado website
Gruenrekorder website

IHab078

O Rio / The River Vol 2. LUÍS ANTERO
(Impulsive Habitat 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

Luís Antero returns to the Alvoco Valley with ‘O Rio / The River Vol. 2’, the latest manifestation of his ongoing relationship with this area of rural Portugal. The first volume, released in 2012, focused primarily on the sounds of the river itself. The sonorous twists and turns of this body of water were brought together to form a flowing piece that created a light, listening atmosphere.

‘O Rio / The River Vol. 2’ carries with it a very different emotion. The feeling is heavier, darker. It’s strange because many of the elements featured in volume 2 are also present in volume 1. Flowing water, bells, voices and community gatherings are common to both pieces, yet with volume 2 they come together to create a much more sombre mood. The bell here is solemn; the community gathering appears to be one of austere religious recital rather than joyful festivity.

We discover the reasons why when reading the accompanying liner notes. With this volume, Antero wanted to highlight the “long lost sonic memories and identities” of local people whose livelihoods were once intricately linked with the life of the river. Antero explain that the gradual silencing of the traditional mills that once existed along the shores of the Alvoco has forever changed the soundscape of this place. He writes:

The ‘passing’ of these sounds, once characteristic of the river and the villages growing on its shores, seem to walk hand in hand with the extinction of the professions that once encouraged them; river-keepers and millers from the Alvoco river valley.

 Conversations with some of these figures are included in the composition and add poignancy to the piece. I only wish I could speak Portuguese so that I could understand what was being said. Oral testimonies are powerful tools that foster a heightened level of emotional engagement, so inclusion of interview excerpts here is very fitting.

Antero’s sensitivity to the shifting spirit of the Alvoco Valley is clearly evident. The time spent in the area, both with nature and the people who still inhabit the region, can only bring him closer to the subject. He seems fiercely determined to preserve the aural identity and cultural legacy of this land so that the old ways are never completely lost. It’s an admirable and important project that once again shows the value of field recordings to the listeners of tomorrow as well as today.

 ‘For sure these villages are not dead, but their lives are not the same as in days gone by. The mills no longer rotate and the river-keeper has long stopped protecting the crystal clear waters of the river. Is there a way for all these life experiences and intricately detailed ways of life to be saved from oblivion? The heritage of these village people must be sought after, their memories and identity, preserved; carefully listen to the whispers of the river. It is from this aural experience that one can perceive, protect and preserve the history of these villages.’
-Luís Antero

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[Luís Antero]

Luis Antero website
Impulsive Habitat website

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