27.2.12

Stones Air Axioms + Pan

After a short hiatus I'm once again writing for Dusted, and thus, also adding another element to the balancing act that is my life at the moment. Keep up with the auxiliary page for updates on that. More schooling on the horizon along with a trip to Hawaii, in which, I'll of course be bringing some pertinent recording equipment. Speaking of recording, I'm still in the thick of my residency that has now been extended to March 20. It's valuable time I'm definitely going to need. Winter's been sticking around in Vancouver, where the local mountains keep getting dumped on with snow and it remains quite cooler than usual in the city. It's also been abnormally windy this year... I've noticed. [The weather, yes, that's topical, they'll like that].

Thomas Tilly & Jean-Luc Guionnet
Stones Air Axioms (Circum Disc)

One needn't read past the first page of the booklet included with Stones Air Axioms, unless looking for an overly complicated summarization of the sounds within, greatly muddying what is a perfectly captivating stand-alone listen. On the first page we're given brief insight into the acoustical importance of cathedrals and their architecture, and how the two relate to sound, and that the work herein is a product of informal acoustic experiments that Tilly and Guionnet did in the St Pierre Cathedral using an organ, sound generator and recorders.

Although the word "experiment" brings to mind "experimental", which this album undoubtedly is, it's also indicative of a lack of attention to artistic form (like some of the "sound mapping" material I've heard, which, ironically, isn't actually all that interesting to listen to). Luckily, Tilly and Guionnet's sonic experiments are quite rich in their form, materializing as both short and long organ bellows coupled with high and low generated frequencies and other "disturbances". There is a sensitivity to the sounds and a definite ear for minimalism that only seasoned musicians working in this field would have, and along with whatever practical/analytical information these two derived from their experiments, they should at very least be happy with this fine album.



Pan
Pan
(Rae)

Bit of a head scratcher of a release from this rather mysterious, though generically titled project, Pan. The album is also called Pan and unfortunately the picture cuts it off but the final track is, you guessed it, "Pan", which is kind of hilarious when you see it in itunes. Titles aside, The New Jersey based Pan treads a musical path similar to that of where Svarte Greiner used to tread, or Terrors, mostly residing in an abstract dark-folk noise nether world, lush with warbly guitars and bleeping electronics. Occasionally, Pan (who appears to be a one man band) blesses us with effects-drenched vocals that work maybe half of the time and completely strike-out a quarter of the time. The two 10+ minute tracks on the album lost my attention, while the surprisingly pop-infused songs pulled me back in, despite their unannounced shifting of the cynical mood, such as when the track "Rae" kicks in with it's, dare I say, Feels-era Animal Collective-y guitar part. The bedroom vibe works though I think song wise there needs to be some serious synching of the net.

Pan - Tunnel (Excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast

16.2.12

Craig Vear - Esk (3LEAVES)

Business as usual for the next month, it would appear, means 6 hour days in the studio, sifting through recorded material to arrive at something cohesive, all the while battling ear fatigue as sounds from the inside of giant mechanical ships eject from studio monitors. Things are coming along swimmingly.

The River Esk is a 45km body of water that stretches through North Yorkshire, England, and empties into the North Sea. A quick scan of the internet reveals much on the river's vitality: a bearer of fish and other wildlife and at one time providing support for small villages that peppered its banks. In 2008 the field recordist Craig Vear turned his attention to the Esk river, and with a little help of a research grant from the Leverhulme Trust, he began gathering audio for what would become his "sound poem" tracing the flow of the Esk from source to sea (only Vear actually recorded it backwards, from sea to source, and then worked in reverse).

Vear's portrait is steeped in all of the sounds one might expect to hear from a river, a good portion of the first half cycling through numerous recorded segments of bird song and water flow, fading in and then fading out predictably. The honesty of Vear's recordings are undermined by how utterly bland they are, unfolding in an elementary one-after-the-next fashion. However, as we get into the more hydrophone dominated back half, Vear slows the pace down and introduces more grit, which, in the grand scheme of his poetic vision makes good sense: more activity and cleaner, quicker transitions corresponding to the source, or "young river", while more languid, longer and grittier sections corresponding to the body and estuary, or "old river".

The "grittiness" of sound herein stems not only from the hydrophone's unique and recognizable conversion of pressure waves and underwater vibration into sound (I think of it as very trebly though I'm not sure how accurate that is), but also from occasional wind distortion and handling noise. These accidental sounds are typically unwanted and can slow a work down, though I believe Vear's choice to include them was a finer deliberation than had he decided to smooth out all the rough edges. Again, this speaks to the honesty of Vear's portrait. That said, when working to create a single, unified piece of music – that Esk strives to be – it becomes the job of the field composer to take the sounds they've gathered and create something that extends beyond any one given recording. In the case of Esk, I hear little more than a line-up of individual pleasant river sounds.

Craig Vear - Esk (excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast

6.2.12

3 Tapes :: Notice Recordings

At around 5:30pm a whiskey breather rocked-out on an acoustic guitar on the bus while his friend, of equal incapacitation and holding two garbage bags filled with beer cans, yelled lyrics as they manifested in his mind. We came to an abrupt halt, the bags went flying, the guitar player smashed into three people, and the two men rolled out of the doors in a true slap stick whirl-wind, their limbs bending in impossible ways. Even though they were now gone, a stream of foul beer and a few bruises remained as mementos for their equally appalled and appreciative audience. And to think, I had nearly lost faith in public transit.


I thank you, Evan Lindofff-Ellery and Travis Bird, for the cassettes you sent and for this drawing (by Evan), which was inspired by a quote I re-posted by Francisco Lopez:

"What we call the sound of rain or wind we could better call the sound of plant leaves and branches.” Francisco Lopez

Evan Lindorff-Ellery - The Tea Merchant and His Atmospheres
(NTR016)

Evan Lindorff-Ellery's music comes from a deeply personal place. The Tea Merchant and His Atmospheres reflects a broad range of elements from the artist's life, who has taken a multi-faceted approach to his sound work over the years, and arrived here, at a fully realized album through careful assembly of at-home processed field recordings and archival tapes. Lindorff-Ellery is careful in presenting this work as non-narrative and nonrepresentational, which I believe reflects the notion that, although these sounds are steeped in personal meaning, that meaning becomes lost to anyone but the artist; the best the listener can do is to take in the sounds at face value, and bring to them their own thoughts, experiences and tastes to derive meaning and opinion.

I doubt a lone critic's opinion, or many critics' opinion for that matter, would have much sway in Lindorff-Ellery's world, but for what it is worth, the analog permutations found within The Tea Merchant... are of great interest to me. On this album, the second solo offering from Lindorff-Ellery on Notice, he presents a series of recordings from South Korea and of Chicago factories, whose peaks and valleys have been filed down to create a warm analog soup via nondescript at-home tape processing. Certain sounds have obvious origins, like those of birds and bells – the bells here reoccur throughout – while others remain unidentifiable, often lurking at first, then surfacing as fizzing drones or rumbling electrified-static.

The album's length (this is a C95!) speaks more to Lindorff-Ellery's intense intrigue toward the sounds then it does just breaking tape-release norms. Yes, it is a long work, and one that requires the luxury of a freed up afternoon to enjoy, but given the potential for drag and filler, The Tea Merchant... falls victim to neither. And in listening to this work and realizing its immensity packed inside a humble tape release, one can't help but sense an overwhelming sincerity about the whole thing.


Ben Owen - Birds and Water, 1
(NTR018)

Readers of the Scrapyard Forecast will need no introduction to Ben Owen, as his solo and collaborative work, and releases on his Winds Measure label, have become staples to this site. Birds and Water, 1 is part of a series of sprawling minimalist drone recordings that Owen captured while in residence at The Experimental Television Center in Owego, NY. Using an analog modular system which included a multi-input sequencer and a bank of oscillators designed by David Jones, Owen set about his work. The result is not dissimilar to the austere ruminations of Eliane Radigue from her heyday, with many minutes of uninterrupted flatline-bordering drone and intervals of silence.

There is, however, something dynamic about these seemingly static drones, not entirely a result of the medium of choice here, but, I think, a conscious effort by Owen to dance upon that line separating activity and stasis. This is especially evident of Side B, which requires far greater patience because the quivering, mid-range drone presented spans the whole of the side's duration, something like 45 minutes.

Owen is also a rather prolific producer of field recordings, in which he more often than not leaves completely unprocessed. I get the sense that the title, Birds and Water alludes to a type of field recorder's mentality of electronic music; that these, minimalistic recordings, left to ring out in an open space, completely devoid of all the tempting bells and whistles, speaks to the beauty of the simplicity of sounds from natural environments, unencumbered and timeless. Perhaps that's a stretch and I've read too far into these sounds. In any regard, I've enjoyed listening to this.


Tiny Music - "Epitaph"
(NTR019)

Making far more clatter than Ben Owen is Tiny Music on their Notice debut, Epitaph. While still, I suppose, on the minimal side of things, I wouldn't put it past the four members of the band to have had looted a hardware store before recording these group improv sessions. Where a bronze angel and PVC piping come into play is impossible to hear in the clamor of this sonic detrital-heap, nor is it very important. What is perhaps clearer, or at least easier to sympathize with, is the grab-what-you-can free-for-all expressionism. The band does find a rather compelling sea-sick groove now and again, the flip especially tapping into a shanty h3o vibe at the beginning (or is it more like Organum?). What can I say? By delving into this I've exposed the work's repeated listening value as mere surface-level intrigue. Was fun while it lasted.

Tiny Music - Side A (Excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast