Global Vistas

Duncan Chapman‘s cassette Cove (LINEAR OBSESSIONAL RECORDINGS LOR 129) was made in Cove Park, an idyllic spot on the West Coast of the highlands which provides artist residencies in literature, film, visual art, music, sound and architecture. He captured field recordings while there and the cassette features some of these audio snapshots, but it’s quite a mixture of other things too – minimal keyboard tunes, electro-acoustic transformations, and a particular technique referred to as “sonification of landscape images”, which might mean recasting a digital photo as audio data. These slow and largely static pieces do evoke a certain calm and peace in the face of beautiful landscapes, and there’s the usual field recording preoccupation with the sound of water, represented here by ‘Calm Pond, Bubbling Stream’. Only the last track, ‘Playing The Rain’, contains much interest for me, as it appears to be an inventive remaking of rainfall recording into a species of alien-sounding electronic music, probably realised in a manner familiar to many modern electro-acoustic composers. Even so, I can’t say that Chapman’s interventions here are especially bold, or that the sound art he creates is very deep. The half-melodies on ‘Across The Loch’ and ‘Mountain View’ are pretty, but they don’t develop or lead anywhere. I’ve no doubt that Chapman was moved profoundly by his experience at Cove Park, but I wish he’d worked harder to convey it to us.

I found a little more grit and substance on Paula Garcia Stone‘s record Undercurrent (LINEAR OBSESSIONAL RECORDINGS LOR 133). This is one of her rare excursions into sound art, as she’s mainly a visual artist (drawing, monoprints) and installation artist (light shows), who also likes to explore the area between science and art. For the latter, she’s made inroads into working with anechoic chambers, but also with medical devices for examining the body, such as the MRI scan machine. Matter of the fact the front cover of this record is a microscopic image of her own skin. Undercurrent uses field recordings, and also magnifies small events, and there is some tape overlaying and electro-acoustic processing going on too, methinks. In terms of variety, there’s evidently no object that she won’t attempt to exploit for its sonic potential, including rainfall, the beach at Dorset, freight trains and helicopters, and recycled bottles in a bottle bank. One of the more dramatic pieces occurs early on, where the action of writing and drawing on paper – and subsequently tearing up the results – is overlaid and magnified to quite a high degree. Quite interesting, but the record doesn’t do a lot to transcend its sources and a lot of it remains process-based art. I sense that Stone is very good at describing the world, but not able to explain her own relationship to it, or why it matters; this deficiency may be why so much of this record seems very plain and descriptive to me, just reporting on things around us without really telling us very much, or sublimating the experience into art.

Both the above from 18th October 2019.

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