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On Field Recordings

photo by Jana Winderen

photo by Jana Winderen

Two great articles from Richard Pinnell and Patrick Farmer were recently published over at The Field Reporter, both concerning field recordings. They’re highly recommended for anyone interested in the Anne Guthrie album I reviewed over at Dusted, or in the Michael Pisaro records I’ve covered, or in any kind of experimental music whatsoever really. The Lambkin and Lescalleet trilogy on Erstwhile comes immediately to mind too.

Pinnell and Farmer start their discussion with the latest Tarab album on Unfathomless, which I’m in the middle of reviewing now. You can listen to a sample and read some more info about that release here, if only to get your feet wet before diving into the discussion.

Here are the links: Strata, Part I – Strata, Part II

A couple of key quotes follow, but I highly recommended taking the time to read both posts thoroughly. There are some great insights there:

Eamon [Tarab] here seems to do so much more than take a couple of nice sounding field recordings and see how they sound juxtaposed over one another. He seems to begin with a sense of structure and then applies the material to it, rather than the reverse. Certainly I wouldn’t say that this is the only way a composer can successfully work in this field, but currently, and I think increasingly, it seems to be the most likely to be successful, to my ears at least. All too often the structure of releases in this area seems to be shaped by the found material. Sometimes, such as for instance in the work of Vanessa Rossetto, or parts of your own Pictures of Men album with David Lacey this can work simply because the field recordings used are so original or striking in themselves, but then all too often we are also presented with perfectly pleasant but quickly forgotten collages of pretty textures. Harsh generalisations perhaps, but it really does begin to feel that way. It takes a strong compositional voice to stand out from what is currently an overcrowded but underdeveloped corner of the musical world, and I think to a large degree Tarab achieves that with Strata.

Material is often synonymous with structure, indeed it becomes structure, just as structure can become material, for a time. The important thing to remember, for me, is that it is indeed material, I don’t consider my recordings to be representative, I don’t consider them to say something poignant about a location, not on their own anyway. I think that unedited, whatever, field recordings, can be wonderful, just look at Marc and Olivier Namblard’s new release, and I think that, timed correctly (again, whatever that means at the time) a field recording can be utilised wonderfully during a live performance – I’m thinking of Pisaro in particular here. But this takes me back to my previous point, about so much of the responsibility lying in the camp of the one listening to the CD – which is not something the person who made the release has much, if any, say over.

There is, on some level, little difference in many ways between what Tarab does on this album and what Luc Ferrari and the GRM required a room full of equipment and the privilege required to access it to achieve.

 

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The Monthly List: September’s Top 11

polo_grounds_imgLots of new music shows up on this month’s list. And though there’s a new Autechre EP on the way (out October 28th; some of you probably have it already), I went back to Exai all last month. Definitely one of my favorite records this year, and one of the best albums Warp has released in the last few.

I also spent a lot of time with some of the new Mystery Sea releases from Belgium. Both Philippe Lamy’s Drop Diary and (G)W(3) from the duo of Bruno Duplant and Darius Ciuta are excellent records worth seeking out. I wrote a review of the former for Brainwashed and hope to cover the latter soon. Both can be purchased on the Mystery Sea blog.

William Winant’s Poon Village debut—incredibly it’s his first solo artist record too—will be released shortly. I’ve been lucky enough to work with PV on the release of the album and have had the chance to hear it many times over the last month or two. It’s as good as the reviews make it sound and I’ve fallen in love with Michael Byron and Lou Harrison’s music because of it. Plus the presentation is pretty mind-blowing. A ton of work has gone into it and I’m excited to see how people react, so be sure to check it out. Sound samples are available online and there’s already a lot of press covering it.

Last but not least are two releases from Kevin Drumm; one from 2012 the other new this year. Keeping up with this guy is virtually impossible, but I keep trying anyway. You can read my review of Earrach here, and I’ll try to get a few words about Humid Weather together before long. With so much music to cover, I’ll probably end up writing a few brief summaries just to catch up. I desperately need more time to write.

Be on the lookout for more great music in the coming months. Erstwhile already has two more releases out that I’d love to cover as soon as possible, including one gorgeous looking double CD from Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet. Lescalleet, like Drumm, is now on Bandcamp, and releasing new music there, as is Howard Stelzer and Intransitive Records. There’s also a new 3CD reissue of Eliane Radigue’s Adnos I-III out on Important Records, which is definitely a contender for reissue of the year.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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Review: Philippe Lamy, “Drop Diary”

Daniel Crokaert’s Mystery Sea label challenges artists to produce music inspired by and infused with the mystique of “liquid states,” whether that means using the sound of amplified water or catching the unpredictable flow of human perception on disc. French musician and painter Philippe Lamy comes at that challenge from both directions on Drop Diary, using the sound of water to focus on the way various environmental and synthetic sounds interconnect. Each piece is stacked with tiny sounds, but the way he weaves them all together gives the album a beautiful, supernatural quality, as open and as alive as the environments used to make it.

Lamy treats the sound of water like a constant in his otherwise stream-of- consciousness productions. In some instances it echoes nakedly, in others it drones on almost inaudibly, masked by waves of digital refuse and processed noise. But it’s always there. Philippe pours it into metal pans and glass cups. He captures its fall from branches and awnings during and after a storm, and he records its sibilant singing as it splashes and cuts down streams and over surfaces.

He combines these noises with other environmental and synthetic sounds, forcing his listeners to imagine each element as part of a larger web of events and motions. Those motions propel his music forward and reshape the rigid digital sounds into a less definite, more accommodating state. The crunch of broken glass mingles with a horse trotting down a brick road, which then rubs elbows with the sound of water trickling through pipes, which tumbles into a burst of digital noise before coming to rest in a still room, with a light storm passing by outside.

Lamy presumably took these sounds from places he knows well, and he uses the proximity of those places to arrange the music. He connects horse hooves to lawnmowers to throbbing, Badalamenti-esque synthesizers in a kind of four dimensional sound photo; not because there’s a secret narrative running between them, but because these things exist side by side somewhere in France, where the album was recorded. That continuity calls into question whether the spaces Lamy recorded are distinct and individual locations at all, and not artificially determined segments of one uninterrupted space. Is it the sound that flows or does the flowing come from the consciousness that connects all the dots?

As the album progresses Philippe removes many of his sound sources. Instead of tumbling over one another, events start to come one and two at a time. Birds sing in the far distance, insects chirp and buzz with them, the sound of water echoes ever clearer. By the time it’s over, Lamy has slowed time down and reduced the music to an almost meditative hum. As the field recordings intermingle, an exciting sense of scope materializes; a feeling that the very smallest things in the world are all connected, and that something much bigger is waiting just over the horizon.

Drop Diary is available on Mystery Sea
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Broadcast 01: September 15th, 2013

from a photograph by Clifton Church - the top of Gasson Hall at Boston College

from a photograph by Clifton Church – the top of Gasson Hall at Boston College

Below is a link to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my September 15th radio show broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM. This link will remain active until September 29th, at which point the audio will disappear and a new show with new music will take its place. I will not be uploading MP3s.

Besides a few technical goofs on my part, everything went smoothly. Finding a way to present some of the longer pieces of music in a two hour slot is one of the challenges I’ll have to think more about, because using short excerpts just wasn’t good enough, especially with recordings like Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones. I’ll either have to plan exactly which segments I want to use in advance (and stick to them, no matter the duration), or I’ll have to select shorter pieces better suited to radio programming. The show will be a little better organized next time.

Links to labels are provided in the playlist.  Any questions or requests, send me an email. Much of this music is still in print and available from the stores, shops, and distributors listed at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: September 15th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Autechre ‎, “Pen Expers” from Confield (2001) on WARP
  2. Helm, “Silencer” from Silencer EP (2013) on PAN
  3. Bruce Gilbert and BAW, “Rest/Reflection” from Diluvial (2013) on TOUCH
  4. David Sylvian, “Manafon” from Manafon (2009) on SAMADHI SOUND
  5. Tod Dockstader, “Water Music” from Dockstader: Quatermass (1992) on STARKLAND
  6. Philippe Lamy, “Une Autre Couche” from Drop Diary (2013) on MYSTERY SEA
  7. Kevin Drumm, “Earrach A (excerpt)” from Earrach (2013) on RECREATIONAL PANICK/BANDCAMP
  8. Bellows “Untitled 6” from Reelin’ (2013) on HOLIDAYS RECORDS
  9. Nmperign/Jason Lescalleet, “The Mystery Disease That Haunts My Town” from Love Me Two Times (2006) on INTRANSITIVE
  10. Howard Stelzer, “Bond Inlets 2 (excerpt)” from Bond Inlets (2008) on INTRANSITIVE
  11. Graham Lambkin, “The Currency of Dreams” from Salmon Run (2007) on KYE
  12. Michael Pisaro “Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (excerpt)” from Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones (2011) on GRAVITY WAVE
  13. Keith Rowe/Günter Müller/Taku Sugimoto “Phase Two (excerpt)” from The World Turned Upside Down (2000) on ERSTWHILE