SUB ROSA NEW SERIES FRAMEWORK SR359 CD (2013)
I love fog horns. Or things that sound like fog horns. Or any sound that’s buried in the background, pulsing, bleeping, operating just below the surface yet conveying some very important information of some form. Unfortunately I don’t live near any body of water where fog horns are a necessity, otherwise I’d be hanging around the docks all day. So I am jealous that one day in 2011 Luca Forcucci landed in San Francisco after a long flight and was confronted by these murky whale-like sounds, unintended members of the wind instrument family known as fog horns. The title track is full of their distant heavy sighing. These sounds alone would make a fine track, but Forcucci mixes in vinyl cuts, beats and scratches. They seem really out of place, but somehow they work. No doubt the bird chirps and footsteps also help cook up this batch of Verfremdungseffekt stew. It’s quite an odd eleven minutes, but I dig such things. The next track is also about eleven minutes in length and consists mainly of waves crashing against the shoreline. These are occasionally filtered and ring modulated into high crackles. While waves are nature’s white noise and quite enjoyable, at eleven minutes all that water just becomes filler, since there’s not much else going on. Happily the final and longest track is a return to strange sonic mix of the opening track. “Winds” starts off with a filtered cistern like drone, to which Forcucci layers with water sounds, jangling objects, and a harmonious bass drone which sounds like its played on the neighbor’s stereo system at such a volume that its bleeding through the walls. Its there, but you can’t quite make it out. In reality it’s Michael Kott supplying cello murk and haze. The cello here answers the call of the fog horns, with its obscured warning.
Deison / Galán
LOUD! CD07 (2013)
Italian sound artist Deison met up with Sara Galán, a cellist based in Valencia, Spain for this short album of dirty electronics and processed cello drones and a sprinkle of field recordings. Like the cover imagery this is a hazy atmospheric affair, suggestive of a soundtrack to a film which doesn’t exist. No doubt it would be one with missing frames and peeling nitrate film stock. The cello sounds are marked by long single strokes intoned like foghorns along some lifeless port on a rocky coast. The electronic elements never take the center stage, as they seem to only work in service of the droning cello, acting to process it and thicken up the sounds, or add some faint morse code like dots & dashes. Some of the tracks sound like acoustic outtakes from My Bloody Valentine demo tapes after they’ve been taped over a dozen times and bathed in copious amounts of reverb. Despite the grey tonal palette this is a rather pleasant affair which grows upon me with each listen. Sometimes the indistinct sounds don’t hold up to scrutiny as there is not much there once you peel back the layers of smoke and fog. Smartly the runtime is only 35 minutes, which is just the right amount for this assemblage as anything longer would have diluted its strengths.
Never So Alone
CRONICA 073-2013 CD (2013)
An album of field recordings is never something new nowadays, so the question is how does this one make it any different, or rather, worthy of your leisure listening time in this world overloaded with sounds demanding your attention? I’d say you won’t regret listening to Never So Alone, as this one is pretty damn sweet. While it’s hard to present sounds that are not generated by yourself as being your own, Whetham does a fine damn good job of taking the sounds that he gathered and composing them into an album’s worth of material that held my attention for the duration of the ride. I didn’t hear any novel approaches to composing with field recordings, but Whetham does demonstrate a skillful hand and ear when it comes to assembling such sounds together to make them compelling and enjoyable. The sounds were gathered in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010. Throughout the 78 minutes divided into 7 tracks we hear heavy drones that could be air shafts or the time-stretched echoes of some ancient rusted water cistern, rain hitting window panes, metal objects being banged about while construction machinery grinds away, wind chimes overdubbed into a cacophonous wall of sound, long tones that are mutated into hypnotic organ sounds, sea waves hitting the shore filtered into oblivion, etc. Or maybe the sounds are not at all like what I describe. In any case this is a fine addition to the canon of field recordings.