Tagged: field recordings

Something From Asia

Polish electronica composer Mirt has shown up here numerous times, most recently with his Vanishing Land record, which collaged three unfinished works into something that amounted to a whole album. A similar collage technique has been used for Random Soundtrack (KOSMODRONE DRONE 1601 CD), as is made evident in the title – a title which also owns up to Mirt’s preoccupation with movie soundtracks, which his work is often said to resemble. Random Soundtrack stitches together field recordings, ambient music, and scraps of improvised / composed music, all the music segues into a continuous whole, and the titles resemble those for imaginary film music cues. Going by selections such as ‘Night Sequence’, ‘Motorboat Chase’ or ‘Sunrise on the Beach’, it’s a movie that sounds incredibly bland – a sort of 1990s European art-house remake of Miami Vice. I wonder what Mirt thinks movies really are…in his world, they are certainly void of events, character, meaning or stories, and all that’s left are some vague traces of “atmosphere”. It’s as though he derived everything he knows about movie soundtracks from collecting old LPs. Still, the cover painting does manage to suggest an imaginary still from an intriguing celluloid tale. From 27 October 2016.

A Slice of Experience

Rafał Kołacki
Hjira. Noise From The Jungle
POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR 120-2 CD (2016)

Rafał Kołacki has a few previous releases of field-recordings, plus a long-running (since circa 2003) collaboration with Rafal Iwański and Dariusz Wojtaś as Hati.

This is actually the second attempt at writing this review. The first version I wrote descended into overemotional hand-wringing about the politics of the situation, and then it occurred to me that people read music reviews to find out about music, not have politics (left or right) shoved down their throats. No-one wants to hear Boris Johnson’s Desert Island Discs, surely? But then, if you release an album of field recordings made in a refugee camp, then is that a political act? This one may well be. Hjira was recorded in The Jungle, the temporary refugee settlement, in Calais, France in December of 2015. The camp was cleared in October 2016. The whereabouts of the majority of its inhabitants is unclear; I hope they are nearer to living a settled life now. As it stands, Hjira is a slice of experience; a small window into the world of people who have been forced into making choices that for us, perhaps, are mostly unimaginable. Without a doubt, Kołacki has collected an aesthetically quite beautiful set of field recordings of human activity in difficult circumstances. Perhaps he has plans to develop this strategy and visit additional locations around the world; the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, or Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum, for example. According to Tom Peck, writing in The Guardian in November of last year, just after the Jungle was cleared, “The forces that have driven people to the Jungle are many and varied but one thing is clear. Not one among them has fled a liberal democracy with a functioning welfare state. There are no Germans, no French, no Swedes, no Americans, no Brits. There are none so lucky as the unluckiest of us.”

These are recordings of human activity; someone sings along to the radio, another prepares food, people chat and laugh. During one listen-through, there’s a great moment at approximately 15 minutes in; during a section of quiet, distant noises, someone very close to the microphone sneezes and both my seven-year-old son and I rather distractedly say “bless you”.

It is my opinion that both the UK and French authorities have behaved with shameful disregard over this matter. Immediately post the Brexit referendum, representatives from both governments engaged in a playground argument on television news programmes over whose responsibility the inhabitants of the Jungle would be – refugees from Darfur; these people are fleeing civil war, let’s not forget – rather than work together to formulate some kind of constructive help. At a time where the UK print media is demonising refugees and France and other parts of Europe seem to be moving further to the Right politically, the treatment of the issues associated with population displacement is less than encouraging. The sleeve features black and white photographs of the camp and some of its inhabitants, taken by Matiia Fiore – a poignant image on the back cover shows tents and detritus with a wall in the background bearing the graffiti slogan “London Calling”. It seems it is left up to artists and musicians to try to change people’s attitudes in a positive way. Written in the sleevenotes: “…It is not a city and its residents are not citizens, hovering somewhere in non-existence, torn between longing for home and dreaming of the Brave New World…”.

Kutin Edge

Ambitious piece of modern sound art by Peter Kutin (last noted in these pages for a split record with Asfast) and Florian Kindlinger in the shape of Decomposition I-III (VENTIL V0001)…this particular item emerged as a double LP on Ventil in May or June 2015, but for some reason we did not receive a promo copy until 3 October 2016. In one sense this might not matter, as the complete suite of Decomposition has been growing and evolving for a few years now, its separate parts presented at various European festivals and art centres since 2014. This double LP is the best way to get the narrative of the piece though, as it leads the listener through a three-part travelogue of internalisation, self-examination, and alienation, probably leading to some profound form of metaphysical despair by the end of it.

The story is told over four sides with the titles ‘Absence’, ‘Introspection’ and ‘Illusion’, and the plan is to subject the listener to some pretty harsh and bleak environments which they must endure, forging their soul on the anvil of endurance. “Territories antagonistic to human life”, is how they would describe their choice of surroundings. It’s kind of like field recordings, because the basic sounds were captured in places like a desert, a snowy waste, a glacier, and an abandoned mining village with wind blowing a howling blast…in these extreme zones, they find the existential misery they are seeking to capture. But they also argue that “field recording” is a “moribund” genre in any case, and they’re out to change all that with their radical new approach to pushing recording gear and microphones into places they’re not supposed to go. We’ve got to admire rough-tough artistes who are prepared to throw down the gauntlet with this kind of reckless thinking, and Decomposition I-III has a lot going for it in terms of the vivid and stark nature of its sound surface. I also like the very contrasting clashes between nature and civilisation that are reduced here to extremely simplistic arguments, the better to bring home the intended messages about estrangement and the searching questions about mankind’s place in the world today.

Christina Kubisch is credited here too, though she worked only on side four, the 18-minute ‘Illusion’. For this she was commissioned to record “electromagnetic signals” from the city of Las Vegas, later to be reprocessed by Kutin in the studio using just edits and splices. The plan was to use Las Vegas as a gigantic form of synthesizer, the entire city unwittingly participating in a bizarre sound art experiment. The artists speculate on the fact that Las Vegas used to be a desert not so long ago, and presumably this makes it fair game for inclusion on the set, conceptually linked to their other recordings of hostile terrains. That den of gambling and vice certainly sounds bleak and remote here, reduced to a series of clinical robotic pulses and whirrs. Bizarrely, in places, the piece turns into something resembling 1990s glitch or avant-garde techno with its mechanical rhythms, but this may simply be a by-product of the process. ‘Illusion’ won the Karl Sczuka prize for best radiophonic composition of 2016, and well-deserved too.

Tender Are The Ashes

Martin Kay is the Australian sound artist who came our way in 2014 under his Mountain Black alias. That release, Closing In, was a baffling and inscrutable piece of sound art, which may or may not have been based on field recordings. Today’s record, Stadium (AVANT WHATEVER 018), is very much based on field recordings and is also highly site-specific; it was created at Melbourne Cricket Ground, and concentrates mostly on voices. Come to that, voices are the conceptual thread running through the work, starting with the sounds of the crowd of cricket fans enjoying the game, but also including fragments of individuals, e.g. families out for the day chatting to each other, and on one track, the mechanical voice of the lift which takes the spectator from one level to another. He’s so intrigued by the workings of the building itself (a trope used by some other field recordists, though not as widespread as you might think) that he even records the ventilation system and starts exploring fences, railings, and various obscure parts of the stadium, such as the highest point in the seating bank that a human being can reach. At all times, the voices are audible – but often at a distance, or filtered through the layers of mechanical sound, or muffled by the surrounding architecture.

Kay then proceeds to follow his nose (or his ears), and takes his mics outside the stadium and into the local suburb of Richmond in Melbourne. In so doing he gets to a nearby railway station, a living room, the Yarra river, and a church – which is where the record finishes. Kay’s explanation is that he is following a “trajectory”, and that he “traces their lines of flight upwards and outwards”; he seems to be saying that the sound of these voices carries everywhere, and that if you live in Richmond there is virtually no escape from the haunting tones whenever a match is being played, so it must be hell for non-cricket fans in the summer (or whenever they play – I have no interest whatsoever in the game). In pursuing this trajectory, it has to be said Martin Kay fetches up in some quite lonely and remote sounding places, and a certain flavour of desolation creeps into these long and mysterious sounds. It may be simply because he’s so far away from the action, but there seems to be a deeper emotional pull at work here. By the time he gets to Saint Ignatius Church, all that ends up on the record is a faintly grim and empty white-noise drone, some of it caused by very distant traffic.

At one level Stadium can be read as a decent piece of process sound-art based on field recordings. Its documentary approach is reflected in its utterly prosaic titles, which are short sentences describing precisely where the recording was taken (lacking only a grid reference which Chris Watson might have supplied if he were doing this project). On another level, Stadium tells the story of a simple journey, which takes Martin Kay like a young Odysseus from the “thick of the action” into a quiet and solitary place, one associated with spiritual contemplation. Gradually the sound of the cheering cricket crowd evaporates through this journey, and the traveller ends up alone and far away from the teeming mass of humankind. From 26th September 2016.

Crude Cassettes

Herewith one large envelope of Miguel A. García-related material from 19th September 2016.

The cassette tape Harigams (CUT#35) comes to us from the Polish label Wounded Knife. The story of it is that Miguel A. García was touring Europe with the French saxophonist Sébastien Branche, and during the Warsaw leg of the trip they recorded a studio set with the drummer Wojtek Kurek from the experimental duo Paper Cuts, and Mateusz Wysocki (sometimes called Fischerle), armed with his laptop of sound samples and field recordings. On the A side, an understated but dense cloud of smeared, fizzy, electro-acoustic noise was the result, a rather subdued and slow drone where it’s hard to say where the saxophone leaves off and the electronic elements begin. The musicians seem to be hampered by uncertainty, but at least their efforts create a fairly pleasing trance. At length, a more restless note creeps into the day’s work, and attempts are made to coarsen the surface with harsh electronic whines and bubbly, crackly emissions from the bell of Branche’s sax. Things improve somewhat on the B side, where the abrasive textures continue and the general flow of the music is subject to more ebb and flow. There’s a nice sample of some vocal music thrown in by someone, but it’s done tentatively, and you wish it could last for longer. The noises are generally pretty good, but the performers are not organising themselves. There’s a general lack of spirit and courage that prevents this music from really catching fire.

Another cassette tape Crudo (NYAPSTER 019) was recorded by García with Carlos Valverde. García and Valverde have performed and recorded together as Cooloola Monster, and their Canciones Del Diablo is an all-time classic in the blasphemous / supernatural noise stakes. On this occasion (as far back as 2011) the harsh pair locked their noisy antlers together and recorded a piece at Radio Bronka in Barcelona, under the general rubric of “Fuck The Bastards” – not sure if this refers to a regular broadcast on that station or a music festival or what, but it’s a good piece of anti-social hate-mongering, not unlike the sort of slogans employed by Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians in the 1980s, except they did it in an anarchist context. The word Crudo is of course entirely apt for this burst of coarse filth, and for about 23 minutes you’ll wallow in scads of black feedback and ugly electronic scabrousness. That sense of nagging insistence, like being attacked by a remorseless sewing machine or other torture implement, is one of García’s strongest characteristics, and in Carlos Valverde he has clearly found a kindred spirit who shares his sadistic tendencies. The cover art – a single word written in black – is spray painted on through a stencil, and the cassette is issued in a Poly-Frosty-Flexi case.

The split tape on Rypistellyt Levyt (RL-016) is not exclusively a Miguel A. García item, but he’s on the B side. At time of writing, this small Helsinki label only offers three releases on its Bandcamp page, but it’s been active since 2009 or earlier, starting out with CDRs but then specialising in cassettes, and has been home to such Finnish obscurities as Neue Haas Grotesk, Supermasters, and the jazz group Horst Quartet. The A side was recorded in Helsinki in 2015, and features our good friend Ilia Belorukov, the ubiquitous Russian, wielding his sax and electronic setup in the company of Lauri Hyvärinen, the Finnish improvising guitarist. The label describe this noise as “slowly unravelling acoustic and electric sounds”, and point out that it was recorded in a concrete bunker, as if that really made any difference. It’s a dud in any case; the duo’s attenuated electric whines and clattering junkyard scrabbles completely fail to cohere for me, but it sounds as though Lauri Hyvärinen has a unique approach to playing the guitar.

On the B side, Miguel A. García is doing it live in Mexico with Héctor Rey, about a week after the Helsinki gig took place. Rey from Bilbao is not unknown in these quarters as he runs the Nueni Records label, which every so often sends us a CDR missive containing obscure and challenging minimal / improvised music. We haven’t heard much of his own work, but his Myxini from 2012 (on the comp Radical Demos #4) impressed us, because of the utter seriousness with which he approached the problem of simply plucking a string. It was as though his very life depended on him sounding the right note. On this Live At Umbral set he’s playing violin and percussion while García supplies electronics, and it’s an extremely subdued set punctuated with much silence and hesitancy. There’s that same sense of deliberation (some might call it paralysis) that I recall from Myxini. When the duo do manage to make a noise together, it’s as if they’re looking at each other with doubtful expressions, asking each other “is this okay?”, as though they were questioning their very right to make improvised music before an audience at all. The duo “work on their sound from a sculptural perspective” according to the label blurb, which may be their way of trying to express in words the deliberation of this stilted approach to playing, likening the musician to a sculptor carefully chipping away at a large slab of marble. They manage to stretch this shilly-shallying out for 17 uneventful minutes, and you’ll need a lot of patience to get to the end of it. Limited edition of 50 copies was released in March 2016, and has already sold out.

The tape Absquatulate Azimuth (BC023) is an old one from 2015, and long sold out. Bicephalic Records is an American tape label and many of the releases feature cover drawings by the owner, August Traeger, who also appears on this split. On the A side, García turns in three variations on a theme he calls Stripes (For Windowpane)…probably one of the most unsettling and confusing sets I’ve heard from the man. It’s got the familiar sense of obsessiveness and the determination to explore an unknown area, but he’s really pushing against the limits, particularly on the spooky third part. Feels like something that members of Nurse With Wound would’ve welcomed in the late 1970s…a real creepster. Apparently the work is derived from “original raw sound sources by window pane”, if that means anything to you.

August Traeger is a new name to me, but he’s a video artist as well as a musician, and also trades under the name Somnaphon. His two contributions are no less creepy than the A side, and ‘Eating Borrowed People’ has a spooked cinematic vibe which I attribute to the sound effects of echoing footsteps and suspenseful chords in the background. But the footsteps are irregular and troubling; no human has ever trod the pavements of the world and created such an unnatural rhythm. I preferred this contribution to ‘Logistic Maps (Subset 2)’, a rather routine bit of glitch and scrambled low-key techno which barely hangs together, but even so Traeger has a nice line in producing synth tunes in the background which make the flesh creep with their queasy, off-centred nature.

Fields Of Debris

Source: http://farpointrecordings.com/mcs/fergus-kelly–shot-to-shreds/

Welcome return of Fergus Kelly, the Dublin-based sound artist, with his new cassette Shot To Shreds (FP057) on the lovely Farpoint Recordings label. Last heard him in 2012 with his album A Congregation Of Vapours, noted as a fairly noisy and raucous entry in the electro-acoustic arena, and we’re pleased to say his interest in ugly electronic crunchery, nasty feedback, semi-industrial gruntings and lumps of metal continues on this tape. The A side is a suite of seven abstract bursts under the heading Debris Field, a title which instantly conjures visions of a junkyard, a trash pile being remade into art in some way. Even the collage cover art, with its daubs of paint smeared over newsprint sheets, could be read as the sort of thing we’d find pasted to the hoardings near this imaginary junkyard, or scraps stuck forlornly on the corrugated iron walls around the compound. The label describe this side as “a tactile and disintegrating landscape of fractured spaces and skewed geographies”, implying strongly that Kelly continues to layer field recordings into his work. On this occasion it’s a glorious maximal bash, one that both celebrates and decries the grime and grit of urban concrete hell that continues to blight parts of the UK (and Ireland, evidently), hemming us in with its unfinished building projects, broken walkways, and unkempt roads. It’d be cool to think of Kelly as a subversive lover of the “derive”, but he doesn’t wander around these scapes like some French intellectual, and instead he takes them for what they are, producing sprawling noise with no clear beginning and end, much like the piles of trash that clearly inspire him.

The B side is more cerebral than the punk-rock inflected A side. Four diverse pieces, including ‘Impact Spatter’, ‘Discrete Oblique’, ‘Cored’ and ‘Closing The Circuit’ are more recognisable as collage and cut-up works, often using musical elements to make their ambiguous statements, and making judicious use of “time-stretching” to slow down certain layers. Taken at a sitting, this B side produces strong hallucinatory and dream-like states in short order. The cut-up voices on ‘Discrete Oblique’ border on nightmare, otherwise innocent and everyday remarks taking on a horrific tinge as they’re juxtaposed with absurdist fragments of musical snatches and chord ripped out of context. The lovely ‘Cored’, a personal favourite of mine, is dominated by a grinding heavyweight drone of metallic feedback that all but crushes the skull under its mighty weight. The “relentless sonic snowstorm”, as the press notes would have it, is a remorseless exercise in piling on an excess of noisy content, almost like Merzbow in slow motion. It includes a slowed-down sample from ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, one of The Beatles’ finest attempts at rendering the onset of the apocalypse in music. The grotesque noise of that 12/8 guitar figure, awash with white noise from George Harrison’s Moog synth, is to a noteworthy statement of sheer doom, better even than the end of ‘A Day In The Life’. Here, in among Kelly’s intense stew of digital violence, it has found a proper home. The programme of side B – it is a well-sequenced album, for sure – means that we end with ‘Closing The Circuit’, a seven-minute composition supposedly making use of “vacated spaces”, and intended to provide aural relief to the battered listener after the onslaught of the 13-minute ‘Cored’. But it doesn’t relieve us of the sense of foreboding or doubt, and we leave the world of Fergus Kelly freighted down with more sorrow and uncertainty than before.

Multiple methods and sources were used to create this fine record, including feedback, tapes, e-bowed strings, amplification, field recordings, electronic music, and music samples. From 29th September 2016.

Philip’s Corners

The lovely music of Philip Perkins first came our way in 2015, when we noted a copy of Mr Anyhow, a set of gorgeous assemblages more or less in the “sound art” box…Perkins is a gifted audio technician but also a serious student and performer of contemporary music, and has a unique and imaginative approach to the way he assembles his sources. This is reflected once again on his new record It Gets The Corners (FUN MUSIC FUN N5), a record subtitled “Still Alive in the Studio 2014-2016”. No clues are given anywhere to what we might be hearing, or how Perkins created it, and that’s pretty much the way he wants it; and titles like ‘egg3’ or ‘water4’ aren’t exactly lucid in their explanations or very forthcoming as clues. That said, it’s fairly evident there are field recordings somewhere in these “corners”, but the process that’s more relevant is the assembly, the threading together and overlaying of multiple sound elements to create a very compelling sequence.

I think this might just be one of Perkins’ most notable traits in his work, and he’s more interested in this assembly process than he is in changing or radically transmuting sounds. If there is much in the way of sound-mutation going on here, in the manner of a classical electro-acoustic musician, Perkins is not calling attention to it. Listening to It Gets The Corners is thus more like engaging in a conversation, a two-way dialogue with a fascinating brain, whose very thoughts and impulses are almost visible to us through this vivid sound art. This is particularly so on the long track ‘Wreath’, where we can follow a rich and divergent chain of thought for 20 minutes and be led down many interesting tangential side-alleys and byways. But there’s much to be said for the shorter 3-minute tracks which follow, highly compressed sonic snapshots which present a surreal and distorted view of the worlds outside his window.

Unlike some highly academic composers with their stilted, overthought works of musique concrète or layered phonography, Perkins is genuinely fascinated by the world and wants to do justice to its beauty, with his very natural and honest portraits of contemporary life. His microphone reaches into the corners where others cannot go. From 26th September 2016.

The Question

A very dense and opaque piece of experimentation indeed is The Process (EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE), a record which arrives with next to nothing in terms of contextual information. I’ve got the word “mother” stamped on the card covers, an insert of a family snapshot, and the titles printed on clear acetate. It’s a collaboration between two Chicago artists, the Afro-American poet Marvin Tate, and the sound artist Joseph Clayton Mills. Actually even labels such as “poet” and “sound artist” don’t really do them any favours, as they’re both creators with many outlets – Mills also does sound installations, paintings, and is a writer; indeed some of his compositions are text-centric in nature, so he mixes things up. Tate is a sculptor, painter, maker of objects; composer of music and performer in a funk band called D-Settlement; and a performance artist. They’re pretty much overflowing with ideas. Even a glimpse at their respective websites will overload the reader with a wealth of interesting and allusive ideas. I suppose we could broadly characterise Marvin Tate as a restless and agitational creator, a declaimer of straightforward poems and texts that are not exactly confrontational, but neither are they designed to let society off the hook very easily. His visual art is building on the turf carved out by Jean-Michel Basquiat, yet also harking back to the Chicago imagists and reclaiming elements of so-called “ethnic” art into a space where he can articulate its meanings on his own terms. As for Mills, he’s composed and released a number of pieces in the trio Haptic with Steven Hess and Adam Sonderberg, one of which (Scilens) we noted in 2012.

I would make much the same sort of observation as I did then, when I was baffled by the music’s “inscrutability”. The Process does nothing to explain itself. It’s an inspired and free-wheeling mix of music, sound art, spoken word and white noise like off-tune TV sets or broken radios, with added sound effects, field recordings, and probably even more elements than I can conveniently fit in my shopping cart just now. If there’s a narrative at work here, or even a basic plan, it’s hard to fathom out; there may be titles to the nine sections of the work – assuming it is a complete work split into nine episodic parts – but they don’t reveal a great deal. Themes bubble to the surface, however, and The Process may have something to do with memory, a search for identity, an understanding of the process of artistic creation itself. If these are indeed themes, they’re posed as questions rather than set out didactically as blocks of information, and it’s incumbent on the listener to pay attention and start to do some research / thinking of their own. Fragments of information leak through, and these we must use to piece together a map. It’s probably not inept to use Marvin Tate’s poems – and other texts, which seem more like informal documentary records of him engaging in a conversation, or simply rambling to himself – as incomplete signposts to an unfamiliar city.

I am certain there are some deep messages embedded in this lumpy and confusing fabric, if I could only dig them out. Even if you have no interest in searching for buried treasure or decoding crossword clues, then The Process still remains a fascinating listen, by turns beautiful, haunting, and abrasive, and it’s a sound-art journey you’ll want to take more than once. From 29th September 2016.

Aguas Territoriales / Caballos: two pioneers of 1980s Cuban electronic experimentation

Carlos Farinas, “Aguas Territoriales” / Juan Marcos Blanco, “Caballos”, Australia, Creelpone, CD-R CP220

In an effort to release as much historical experimental electronic music in their current double-set limited edition series, Creelpone elected to pop these two Cuban recordings from the early 1980s together on the one disc. Both recordings, originally released separately by Empresa Grabaciones Y Ediciones Musicales (EGREM) – a Cuban record label founded in 1961 responsible for releasing many significant Cuban and other Latin American recordings in homegrown and regional contemporary music genres, jazz and rock – are nearly equal in length at about 33 minutes and 34 minutes respectively.

Farinas leads off with the two long tracks that make up “Aguas Territoriales” (“Territorial Waters”). “Madrigal” is an unobtrusive though far-ranging electroacoustic piece of shrill bird-whistle melody fragmentation overlying a long drone that develops into a serene, radiant electro-symphonic epic. It’s a very graceful introduction into this archival set. “Aguas Territoriales” the title track features field recordings of water bubble that become crazed and demented as they pass through reverb and drone treatments when you might expect they would be plop-plop still and quiet. Both long pieces reveal a very unexpected and mischievous humour on Farinas’ part.

JMB’s “Caballos” (“Horses”) starts as a lively and playful melodic recording, dominated by analog synth, with plenty of galloping rhythms and frivolous flights of twittery fancy. Chase scenes and light-hearted dramas flit by as the horses run from one corral to another and back. As this work progresses – it was originally written for the stage – it expands into a full soundtrack of electro-orchesral ditties and field recordings embracing many moods and feelings. Birdsong appears among pure clean-toned electronic tunes and musique concrete sounds suggesting light industrial work and explosions.

A lot of fun is to be had on both these recordings though they’re very different in style and approach. The ages of the two composers may be significant: Farinas was in his 50s and JMB in his 30s at the time their recordings were released. JMB’s “Caballos” is the more extroverted and busy work, heavy on melody and constant light-fingered activity. Farinas seems more interested in creating mood and suggesting that water may be alive in its own perhaps demonic way with special effects. Both works complement each other very well and provide an  entrée into Cuban electronic experimental music during the Cold War.

The CD-R is available from Broken Music.

Playing Golf (With My Flesh Crawling)

On The Masters (EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE), the sound artist Henry Collins has evidently taken BBC broadcast recordings of a golf game, and edited out all the audio commentary originally provided by such loquacious types as Andrew Cotter, Dan Walker, Peter Alliss, et al. What remains on Collins’ CD is almost nothing – naught but the gentle sound of golf strokes and balls being hit for long distances, occasionally interrupted by unobtrusive bird song in the background. Regular readers may recall that Henry Collins performed a similar “remove all the dialogue” trick on the Sound Of Music soundtrack, resulting in the puzzling and blank record Music Of Sound for this same label, which we noted in 2014. At least on that occasion he left us some interesting sound effects to enjoy. The Masters, taken from the 78th Masters Tournament (if that means anything to you), has very little going on the engage the curious listener. We could treat it as sort of “found” field recording, but it’s too banal in subject matter for that. The conceptual trick appears to be the central meaning of this work.

One stumbling block I personally have is that I hate the game of golf, and everything about it strikes me as absurd and pointless, its players a clutch of smug bourgeois men in preposterous outfits and bad jumpers from the Pringle catalogue; even the sound of the golf strokes here is enough to get my hackles up and remind me of the confines of the class-ridden, snobbish country that is the UK. On the other hand, perhaps I can take some comfort in the idea that said bourgeois men are conspicuously missing from this recorded artefact, bad jumpers and all, and we’re free to inhabit a stretch of greensward untroubled by their ludicrous antics. But we’re not quite free, as the presence of balls a-flying is a constant distraction as we wander about, whooshing through the air like unwanted giant insects. It’s as though the game was continuing, in some strange schematic form, dotted lines representing the path of the golf balls propelled by an unknown agency. The concept is further manifested by the cover design, featuring spherical indentations printed in white on one side and black on the other. Rather thin content overall; probably more fun to read about than to listen to. From 29 September 2016.