Ramshead: a secret world of drama and mystery underlying a stolid landscape

Philip Sulidae, Ramshead, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U48 (2017)

At 2,230 metres in height, Australia’s tallest mountain might look more like molehill modesty than montane majesty to folks outside the country but what Mt Kosciuszko lacks in loftiness Philip Sulidae has invested with mystery. Armed with binaural and contact microphones, a computer and various other equipment, Sulidae captures a secret world of drama underlying an otherwise stolid landscape of rock, forest and grassland. Winds blow louder than you would imagine, rain gushes faster and in more quantities than you can believe, and the very air is fragrant with cool dampness. While all sounds are natural, they don’t conform to stereotypes we may carry about what is “natural” and what is not, and the result is often astounding crackling or droning noise detail possessed of a life force and direction that humans may have once have been familiar with (and may even have worshipped) but after centuries of civilisation we no longer know.

With titles like “Dogman Hut, Leatherbarrel Creek” and “Swampy Plain, Central Ramshead”, the soundscapes give an impression of unyielding impassiveness, harbouring secrets that are not easily given away. On “Swampy Plain …”, Sulidae trudges about over wet ground during a shower burst, his foot-steps providing a steady beat and rhythm for us to follow in a world otherwise difficult to navigate. A choir of magpies later starts up a chant that becomes quite menacing and oppressive in its dry and repetitive caw-cawing nature.

There’s no over-arching structure or them to the soundscapes here: listeners are free to make what they want of the sound worlds contained within this disc. You may find much that is comforting and familiar here or you may sense a mysterious life force that, while not initially friendly and a bit stand-offish, is not threatening or hostile. You are a guest in the world of “Ramshead” here, welcome to take what you need.

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