Archives for category: Recordings

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Paraty
RUI CHAVES
(self release 2013)

Review by Maria Papadomanolaki

Before starting to write this review, I opted from reading the additional information that Rui Chaves has sent me by email. I restrained my listening experience and knowledge to this limited edition book and its contents. The journey begins with a bold statement adorning the front cover: “The recordings are inside”, prompting me to start exploring, reading in search of the sounds inside. Since page one, a recurring suggestion from the part of the artist attempts to subvert my reading and listening position. Can I read and listen? Can I read this book in order to listen? The suggestion builds up and as I turn the pages I risk to turn it into an instruction. I should let my thoughts speak as loud as possible in conversation with the work and with the artist. Therefore, to me, it sounds like that I perform the work, I perform in this conversation as I follow the lines and turn the pages. I interact with the frictions of an object, a metaphor of the artist’s intent. The book becomes the nexus in which my understanding of the work exists in conversation with Chaves’ thinking mind. This is “field-recording” but one that allows to vulnerabilities, imperfections and subjectivities of both the artist and the reader/listener to playfully assume a significant role in the process.

Chaves shares his memories of his visit to Paraty both as texts and as recordings that are bound to coexist, compliment and at times contrast each other. The acoustic scenery (textual or sonic) is however destabilised by Chaves’ recurring suggestions and instructions to the reader/listener. Can I remember while I read and listen? The book’s structure introduces me to different times and locations of Chaves’ stay in Paraty such as the arrival, the Vasco da Gama celebrations, the town center, the mercado, the harbour and in each section words are interwoven with suggestions, instructions and complemented by a series of sounds contained in plain white, hand-numbered CDs. There is no ambition to present this work as a complete recounting of the experience. It is obvious that Chaves is interested in the fragmented nature of moments that finely balance between the fictitious and the lived and that altogether resound his experience of Paraty. It is rather, to me at least, more about providing a journey through an environment that consists of minute sparks of experience. And within it Chaves asks me to take part, to transpose it to my own locality and stand with him amidst busy markets and open windows, blurry dog clutter, donkeys, mechanical boiling fluids and serendipitous explosions.

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But more than anything else, Chaves’ work demonstrates one possible way of listening and engaging with our surroundings and of essentially practicing “field recording”. He wants us to take this journey through Paraty and use it as a map to all possible destinations, a map for unlocking and, why not, recording what matters to us and what marks our memory. In the final section of the book, I find a folded map that rather than dissecting the landscape it opens it up, it blurs, empties and confuses it so that it can take any form and shape I want it to. And so it is Sound 5 containing the recording of the harbour; I am encouraged to imagine and perform the sounds, I can breathe my voice into the text and fill in the gaps of this multifaceted journey of “sonic materialities and place-being interactions”, echoing Chaves’ penultimate thoughts about his last moments in Brazil:

“This is not one moment.

These are several moments. Condensed.

All of these recordings are.”

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[Rui Chaves]

Paraty is available at the Queen’s University Belfast library.

Rui Chaves website 

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Sirène. ROBERT CURGENVEN
(Recorded Fields Editions 2014)

Review by Daniel Crokaert

After a substantial succession of performances and being on the road a lot, ever training his made-to-measure audio-guerilla set, Robert Curgenven is back with a monstrous striking new opus : “Sirène”. This is the result of a 4 year patient gestation, and concern for approaching a state of sheer engulfing sound energy, as well as offering a reflection of his past as a confirmed organist.

Pushing field recordings in further subversive recesses through a mise en abime, main source material is 16-foot pipe organs played and recorded by him in various churches in Cornwall.

Photos on the sleeve are self-eloquent about the mood of the work.

On the back cover, a William Turner’s rather well-known painting “Snow Storm. Steam Boat Off a Harbour’s Mouth…” which fed the figment according to which the painter tied himself to the mast of a steam ship at night to observe extreme meteorological conditions.

…A tormented sea, a true conspiracy of the elements, a sense of immediate palpable danger…

Front cover depicts a far more personal story, it’s a premonitory find : an old photo of Curgenven’s grandfather surfing circa 1920.

…A dark blanket of chalky grooved waves, fierce foam and endless ripples, a ghost figure in equilibrium, the vertigo of infinity…

…A tremendous snapshot…

Then comes the title “Sirène” : an alarm device or much more likely the mythical creature seducing lost sailors to lure them into the abyss…And YES, “Sirène” is abyssal, displaying an enormous force at work…actually, I’ve been told it came to fruition almost incidentally while remixing some parts of the material for a second LP to be released later this year, and based upon Curgenven’s vision of a desecrated , dislocated Australian land.

On side A, “Ressuscitant de l’étreinte de la Sirène” starts with an insidious plaintive call surfacing from the marine depths, and colliding with the oceanic drizzle…cracked scum…“Cornubia” rubs it in. A relentless sweep upwards where scoria of organ overtones pulled from remote layers surge to encounter the outlines of a new world…

Curgenven propels sounds across long chimneys of distress, into the open space, searching for a physical clash, increasing the feeling of pressure, sucking you into a vortex of vivid sensations…

No futile decoration, no hollow effects, total submersion where one has to worm his way into a falsely dense compact core. A navigation upstream, straight to the source of some essential momentum…

Again, no frontiers or clear limits, but a scheme where the body undergoes, the eardrums vibrate, the mind travels an arid yet pregnant territory…

On side B, there’s the return of a lamentation dotted with minimal textural audio-debris and eroding hiss to pierce the shell of any indifference.
A perfect distillation and primal penetration through a cluster of organ dronal tentacles…

“Sirène” warns as much as it stimulates, a vital clatter not for the faint hearts, and when a short pause of near silence bursts in, the next last notes resound like  an omen for all ravaged lands.

“Sirène” is all about the unseen, the flow below…it sculpts a mass generating its own spectral harmonics,

acting as a powerful relay – an intensity one cannot escape…a lifeline…

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[Robert Curgenven]

- Translation to French-

Après une non negligeable série de concerts et de tournées, affinant sans cesse son set de guérilla-audio, Robert Curgenven est de retour avec un monstrueux et marquant nouvel opus : “Sirène”. Résultat d’une patiente gestation de 4 ans, et d’un souci d’approcher un état de pure engloutissante énergie sonore, tout en constituant un clin d’oeil à son passé d’organiste confirmé.

Poussant les field recordings dans de plus lointains et subversifs retranchements à travers une mise en abîme, le matériau de base se fonde sur des orgues à tuyaux de 16 pieds joués et enregistrés par lui dans diverses églises à Cornwall.

Les photos illustrant la pochette parlent d’elles mêmes en ce qui concerne l’atmosphère de l’oeuvre. Sur la pochette arrière, la reproduction d’une peinture assez connue de William Turner “Snow Storm, Steam Boat Off a Harbour’s Mouth…” qui entretient le récit sans doute imaginaire selon lequel il s’attacha la nuit au mât d’un bateau à vapeur afin d’observer des conditions météorologiques extrêmes.

…Une mer tourmentée, une vraie conspiration des éléments, un sens du danger palpable immédiat…

La pochette avant représente une histoire beaucoup plus personnelle, et c’est aussi une trouvaille prémonitoire :

une ancienne photo du grand-père de Curgenven surfant autour des années 20.

…Une sombre couverture de vagues crayeuses à sillons, d’écume sauvage et de rides perpétuelles, une figure fantôme en équilibre, le vertige de l’infini…

…Un formidable instantané…

Ensuite arrive le titre “Sirène” : un dispositif d’alarme ou plus vraisemblablement la créature mythique charmant quelques marins perdus pour les entraîner dans l’abysse…

Et oui, “Sirène” est abyssal, faisant étalage d’une force énorme à l’oeuvre…en fait, il m’a été confié que “Sirène” a vu le jour quasi incidemment en remixant certaines composantes destinées à un second LP devant être publié plus tard cette année, et reposant sur la vision de Curgenven d’une terre australienne profanée, disloquée.

Sur la face A “ressuscitant de l’étreinte de la Sirène” démarre avec un appel plaintif insidieux remontant des profondeurs marines, et se télescopant avec le crachin océanique…écume fendue… “Cornubia” remue. Un impitoyable balayage vers le haut où des scories de traits d’orgue extirpés des couches distantes surgissent pour rencontrer les contours d’un nouveau monde…
Curgenven propulse les sons le long de longues cheminées de détresse, au sein de l’espace ouvert, cherchant la confrontation physique, augmentant le sentiment de pression, nous entraînant dans un vortex de vives sensations…
Pas de décoration futile, d’effets creux, de l’immersion complète où l’on doit se frayer un chemin dans un noyau faussement dense et compact.
Une navigation en amont en ligne droite vers la source d’un élan primaire…A nouveau, pas de frontières ou de claires limites, mais un schéma où le corps subit, les tympans vibrent, l’esprit voyage dans un territoire aride mais très fertile…

Sur la face B, il y a le retour d’une lamentation tachetée de minimes et texturés débris audio, et d’un sifflement érodant destinés à percer la carapace de toute indifférence.
Une parfaite distillation et pénétration primordiale au travers d’un amas de tentacules d’orgue “dronesques”…

“Sirène” avertit autant qu’il stimule, un éclaboussement vital pas pour les timorés, et quand une courte pause de quasi silence s’immisce, les notes qui suivent résonnent comme une malédiction pour toutes les contrées impunément ravagées

“Sirène” nous parle du non vu, du flux sous la surface…Il sculpte une masse générant ses propres harmoniques spectrales, agissant comme un puissant relais. Une intensité à laquelle on ne peut échapper…une bouée de survie…

Robert Curgenven website
Recorded Fields Editions

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Habitats for metal plants
CHRIS WHITEHEAD
(Linear Obsessional 2014)

Review by David Vélez

I

‘Habitats for metal plants’ is a release based the humorous existence of metallic plants in Great Britain.

From the liner notes

‘Plants growing in these environments have, by means of Darwinian natural selection coupled with sheer determination to survive, managed to incorporate various metals into their very DNA. The resulting species display a variety of features only made possible at the point where biology and metallurgy combine.’

II

‘Abandoned Magnesium Works, Hartlepool’

This piece presents a metallic quality reminiscent of previous Whitehead works. The clanking, rattling and droning sounds lead the listener to a somber path where scale and resonance acquire gigantic proportions. By minute 5′ the piece enters a new stance where the sense of of scale varies drastically. On minute 5′ a series of harsh and noisy textures emerge establishing a microscopic and detailed perception of things. By minute 7′ the large scaled metallic sound return. In addition the sounds of voices and construction machines join the composition creating a horizon where ‘reality’ and illusion blend.

Although the premise of the release is humorous the pieces present a serious and deep listening experience with the exception of piece number three, ‘Trainsition’, which by combining a mouth harp and recordings from a social gathering, achieves some sort of ‘funny’ sonority.

‘Derelict Ball Bearing Factory, Sheffield’

The second piece seems to be less about matter and more about electronics, here we can perceive sounds produced by static and distortion, By minute 2′ a tonal sonority emerges like an emotional aura that takes over and then fades away. By minute 3′ the pieces changes drastically as they enter sounds produced by human voices and what seems like human activity -dragging, throwing-. By minute 5′ we can listen to more ‘musical sounds’ and specifically a drone that sets the mood for the piece. Later we get to listen to something that sounds like a violin mixed with drones and, again, human voices. This model continues and develop until minute 10:30 where some deaf and repetitive sounds arise to just disappear in a similar way than the engine of a car strops running.

‘Trainsition’

The combination of a mouth harp and voices in this piece has a funny thing to it that makes sense with the whole premise of the work.

III

As someone who writes reviews of sound art and experimental music I am often exposed to new releases all the time. Releases submitted by new labels, through new means of distribution and by new artists presenting new new approaches… I think that the listener often has the sensibility and time to only focus on a few works and artists, and still he will recognize certain elements and approaches that will interest him more than others within the same body of work or even within the same piece.

I have been following the work of Chris Whithead for some time and when you sum his releases, as a listener, you can clearly perceive a formal direction, you tell the kind of formal questions that he is making. But here in particular one can perceive new approaches and questions. Through many points I noticed a greater emphasis on the isolation of certain individual sounds. I recognized too a very rewarding interest in melodic and harmonic patterns and in more musical sonorities in general . I could also tell a more experimental approach to the medium showing a developing interest in noise and distortion.

IV

Subjectively speaking ‘Habitats for metal plants’ stands out because a very fortunate ‘cinematic’ narrative sense that I found on it and that I highly welcome. The sonorities and structure make me feel in front of a movie and more specifically in front of an avant garde film that presents a series of very odd and bizarre actions and images randomly linked and using a highly encoded and hidden symbolism full of appeal and meaning.

 

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[Chris Whitehead]

Chris Whitehead website
Linear obsession website

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Terraform JAY-DEA LOPEZ
(Kaon 2014)

 Review by Cheryl Tipp

‘Terraform’ is the latest incarnation of the Taurion River, a body of water in France’s Limousin region that has formed the backbone of Kaon’s ongoing La Rivière series. Inspired by a collection of field recordings made by Cedric Peyronnet, this project has seen various sound artists pick up the acoustic gauntlet and create new compositions using Peyronnet’s archive as a starting point.

Jay-Dea Lopez is the latest artist to fall under the spell of this watery muse. With ‘Terraform’ he has created a piece that resonates with a kind of primal energy, reflecting the response of Lopez’s imagination on listening to the original recordings.

I imagine two parallel worlds, one at the end of its days and the other at its birth; both lie in darkness, cold winds swirl over rocky terrain. We move between the two, witness to a beginning and an end.  

A systolic-diastolic rhythm is a unifying feature of the work,  fading in and out as the composition progresses. Reminiscent of a beating heart, it feels as if we are tapping into the very life force of the river. In between these almost intimate moments, other sounds come to the forefront. Snippets of birdsong gradually materialise, showing us that the river is part of something more. A Blackbird sings, claiming his piece of the Taurion Valley. Perhaps he will raise a family there. Insect-like drones come and go, taking their place alongside the intermittent, pulsating  cadence.

The overall feel is one of uncertainty and transition, a shifting conscience that is neither based in one place or the other. It’s interesting to note that ’Terraform’ was partially composed during a residency in Estonia, 13,000km from Lopez’s home in Australia. I ask myself “How does place affect the creative process? “. A feeling of unfamiliarity and displacement, experienced by Lopez at the time, seems to have fed into his composition. At the same time this is joined by a sense of adaptation, anticipation and change, mirroring his adjustment  to new surroundings. This conjecture seems to fit with Lopez’s own description of his imagined Taurion world.

La Rivière is an exciting project which can only grow in stature as more artists lend their talents to the mix. With ‘Terraform’ Lopez has cemented his position in the Taurion hall of fame with a composition that is fresh, well-balanced and unmistakably him.

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[Jay-Dea Lopez]

Jay-Dea Lopez website
Kaon website

 

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Le Cébron / Statics and Sowers
THOMAS TILLY
(Aussenraum Records 2014)

Review by Chris Whitehead

I like surfaces. They make things what they are and without them we can’t have depths, because to be deep is to be a long way from the surface in a downward direction, and we need a point to measure from. Surfaces are boundaries between different states of being. The ice on a frozen lake is solid and it divides the gas above and the liquid below and it glints in the winter light and it creaks as the wind buffets it.

The 12″ circle of vinyl that these sounds are embedded in is itself a round lake surface, because it is opalescently ice coloured. A translucent cypher for the subject matter within. Indeed my copy has a dark line running through the material from the outer edge to the central hole, making the record a picture of imminent fracture, of breakage and fissure, like a crack from the perimeter firing through to the core.

In the apprehending of le Cébron (musique concrète du dehors), named after the lake on which it was made, the surface feels tense as a drum skin, stretched and taut as it responds to the actions of Sylvain, Phillipe and Julien – credited here for ‘crashing the ice’. At times sounds reminiscent of those produced in recordings of wire fences or sprung metal are created. The brittleness and hardness of this frozen medium highlights the solidity of it, and yet the ease with which it is broken points out its impermanence. Without doubt it will become thin, disseminate and dissolve into a fluid state with the passage of time.

In small detonations of crackling animation, shards splinter and slide and sprawl and unfold and abrade against each other across the stereo field. Attack and decay made tactile.

Thomas Tilly has angled the work to reflect the truth that this frozen water is completely dependent on the liquid beneath on which it floats and the air above remaining cold enough to sustain it. As ice is forcibly broken the water under it readjusts itself after the trauma by gurgling and trickling back to its predetermined equilibrium again. In the air above waterfowl call quietly in the gently shifting air.

With each side of vinyl devoted to a single track, the second composition, Statics and sowers (for Zbigniew Karkowski) walks the ephemeral tightrope between the worlds of insect produced sound and electronic emission. It has always been a mainstay  of the lazy reviewer to equate the clicks and glitchery of electrons coursing through silicon components to the scrapes and buzzes of insects’ beating wings and rhythmic abrasions. There is a tension between these sounds. Tilly plays with the tension and avoids getting stung.

Immediately the record begins spinning we are dropped into a maelstrom of buzzing bees, a cricket-like clicking forms from below and exists for a while as a symbiotic factor. Oh yes, we are certainly in thrall to the laws of the apian colony, but as if leaking through the hive walls electrical manifestations creep in. Like the free scrawl and crosshatching of Jean-Luc Guionnet’s drawings which adorn the cover, hive life is busy and highly kinetic.

After some time a drop into a plasma field occurs and the insects circle the outside but are never let in. Clouds of luminous vapour and bristling molecules float impermanently. They fade. Their existence is brief. The bees return.

Throbbing obliteration occurs later, suddenly and loudly in a fluctuating and deep envelopment. A connection is broken after several minutes of heavy vortex and with a final glitch-burst the clear air returns. All that remains is the lingering of background static, a few trails of fading squall and of course the bees.

Aussenraum only release vinyl and they do it with great thought, and removing this artefact from the turntable I’m reminded again of the frozen lake. The record is ice, a frozen lake. But outside the sun is shining, and a bee is noisily arguing with the glass in the window. I open the window slightly and carefully guide it out. I watch it fly over the fence and across the street and finally disappear.

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[Thomas Tilly]

Thomas Tilly website
Aussenraum website

 

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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 

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Music for earbuds
STEPHEN CORNFORD

(3Leaves 2013)

Review by David Vélez

From Stephen Cornford’s website

‘A series of works composed entirely from acoustic recordings of the feedback between a walkman tape-head and a pair of earbud headphones.’

I

Is not really easy to recognize the sources of the recordings captured for ‘Music for earbuds’ with the exception of the piece ’03′ where the listener can hear the distorted sounds of a natural environment inhabited by birds, insects and other animals. This difficulty leads to an exercise where one can imagine the causality of the sonorities projected in the noisy feedback sounds. For example ’01′ resembles a group of bees; on ’02′ the high pitched sonorities evoke the harsh buzz produced by cicadas. On ’04′ I picture sounds produced by either electric or mechanical means. Something similar happens with ’05′.

Excluding ’03′ and ’05′ the release presents a very repetitive and minimalistic narrative structure that works very well with its harsh sonorities.

II

What I find more interesting about ‘Music for earbuds’ is the method and process behind it, the exploration and instrumentation of the notion of feedback which sparks a poetic and metaphoric horizon of lecture in regard of the perceptual listening process. 

We often figure out a model where the world is outside us and the perception through which we perceive this world is inside us, but this model becomes ambiguous and complex when we consider the potential feedback between input and output. Maybe the sounds that we listen don’t occur where we think they occur; our notion of the outside world is mediated by an interpretation that our brain does of ‘external’ inputs.

III

Heraclitus said ‘You could not step twice into the same river’ so with this in mind it can be inferred that a sound will never repeat itself.

The conditions on which we listen to a certain sound will never repeat themselves, and I am not only talking about the conditions of a constantly changing physical wold but I am also talking about the developing semantic monologue of our thoughts that inexorably feedbacks with the environmental sources of sound. I also think about the ever-fluctuating mood of the listener that draws a mirroring process with the external resonances.

The usually soothing and relaxing sound of a quiet creek can become sinister and dreadful approached from a dramatic or anxious perspective; in the same way a haunting scream acquire a complete different emotional meaning given the chance and context.

The subjective and contextual aspects in the beholder’s perspective are essential in the construction of a sound.

For instance when I listen to ’03′ I hear this natural environment inhabited by animals, but I hear it in a distorted way; the artificial and eerie textures point to a sense of mediation. This is not just a natural environment but a natural environment interpreted and mirrored.

IV

I have no idea if there is a relation between all the things that I wrote on this review and what Cornford might had in mind when he composed ‘Music for earbuds’. I also don’t know how much of what I wrote would have been written if I didn’t learned about the process behind the work. Still this is a release that very likely echoes in its formality the beautiful poetry of its process.

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[Stephen Cornford, photo courtesy of Luca Ghedini for Eventi]

Stephen Cornford website
3Leaves website

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