The Cylinders

Sala is a Lithuanian project which at one time used to be a trio comprising Audrius Šimkūnas, Ramunas Personis, and Vasha Dadaja. On today’s record Scare Me Not (U41), from the Belgian phonography limited-edition label Unfathomless, I think it’s exclusively Audrius Šimkūnas who is creating these two lengthy field-recording suites of understated quiet menace, which have been taken home and treated in the studio to bring out even more layers of unsettling threat.

He made the field recordings in a site near Utena, which was evidently a junkyard in the forest filled with “abandoned Soviet machines”. I have commented many times before on the way in which sound artists are drawn inexorably towards these zones where once there was evidence of heavy industry, and now there is nothing but desolation. I sometimes wonder what it is they’re trying to prove, what they’re looking for as they point their recording devices at rusty machinery and trip carefully around disused rail tracks for mine-carts. In the case of Sala, he might almost be on some semi-mystical quest for self-realisation. He took a “selfie” which he includes inside the record, and the first thing I notice is his grim frowning face, as if he’s a visiting sage from another older civilisation coming to our present day, clearly displeased by what he beholds. The second thing I notice is his white hood, which might be a suit to protect him from radiation (whatever went on at Utena?!) or perhaps some form of monkish garment to aid him on his secret ceremonies, as he works patiently and quietly to utterly condemn and damn this cursed industrial zone.

I have to admit the photos of the areas – again taken by Šimkūnas, treated and laid out by Daniel Crokaert – are pretty evocative, with the mysterious cylinders lurking in a scary forest. The old rusting typewriter, overgrown with grass, is an especially nice touch. The colours (and indeed the subject matter) of these photos fits right alongside many other releases from this label, as does the subtle sound-art ambient phonographic noise. Sala has achieved, in sound, a fairly interesting blend of natural and industrial sounds, and collaged everything together into a long gloomy meditation on decay and entropy. From 2nd May 2017.

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