field recordings

LUDWIG BERGER - "Cargo"

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Ludwig Berger - “Cargo”

(Canti Magnetici)

Poetic, detailed, and filled with intimate solitude, Cargo, the latest release from musique concrete magician, Ludwig Berger, bristles with satisfying hum and resonant air energy. Using the aural brushes of field recording, ambient drone work, and thoughtfully artistic editing, Berger paints portraits of everyday occurrences with vivid detail.

Water is not made of waves, but droplets. Children play in stereo around the listener. Jovial workers labor in bright sunlight. Birds call from trees. Occasionally a dramatic sweep of ambient power pushes the narrative forward, but often the listener drifts through each vignette, pausing for an undetermined time to discover the intricate secrets of each new scene.

At the close, Cargo could mean many things. Perhaps the ocean waves convey cargo in unseen ships, or the workers are loading cargo. Or maybe the sounds we are hearing are the cargo. Records of another place and time, preserved on a thin strip of magnetized tape.

Gray Lee

https://cantimagnetici.bandcamp.com/album/cargo

Whettman Chelmets - Infant Eyes and Baby Steps

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Whettman Chelmets - “Infant Eyes and Baby Steps”

(Girly Girl Musik)

The indefatigable Whettman Chelmets drops his first release for 2019 in the form of a tight, little EP that communicates the travails and triumphs of raising a newborn but in a style that only Whettman can deliver.

The droning, ambient post-rock of the tracks certainly convey the surreal, sleep-deprived state that all parents have experienced. Indeed, track titles such as TFW it’s 400 am and you’ve been up 3 times already and MRW I Drop the Passie in the Dark express a verisimilitude of lived experience, and the field recordings of life in the Chelmetts’ household further amplify the authenticity.

Fans of Whettman’s previous work such as Annihilate your Masters and Alas The Sun is Shining and You are Still Alive will recognize the expansive soundscapes he can create with with reverb-drenched shoe-gaze guitar work and ambient synth. However, where Annihilate Your Masters stayed gritty and nihilistic, this latest EP goes to uplifting and hopeful places. Likewise, where Alas The Sun is Shining and You are Still Alive could be overly giddy, Infant Eyes and Baby Steps is touchingly heartfelt.

All in all, another solid release for the Whettman discography and the soundtrack for sleep-deprived new parents everywhere.

Theron Willis

https://girlygirlmusik.bandcamp.com/album/giant-eyes-infant-steps

ARROWOUNDS - "Book of Endangered Species"

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Arrowounds - “Book of Endangered Species”

(Histamine Tapes)

With a captivating sound that right away becomes dimensional, Book of Endangered Species presents itself as an audio riddle to be solved by the listener through repeat plays. The opening chapters of this 'book' are embellished with layers of murky, convoluted ambient sound, like a wet layer of forest leaves that must be dug away at to reveal what they are hiding. Turning these earthen pages uncovers muddy drones that move in and out of the listeners space, filling the aural atmosphere with tangible light, and vague tendency to purpose.

While some tracks, such as Glass Cemeteries, tend to drone more directly - there always seem to be shifting levels of texture within the output that continues the interest and thought pattern. Instead of lulling the listener into another consciousness, these sounds invite the listener to explore the current one. Other parts of this story like, the track Rainier, are more cinematic in nature and begin to cycle in light orchestration, and undulate more dynamically than the opening pieces. Throughout the work, varied audio experiences and complex networks of field recording provide a tactile and detailed look at each aspect of the story being told.

The final chapter of the Book of Endangered Species is a lengthy sidelong exploration of a vast, cave-like space. This selection is called Blue Rivers Through Black Earth and is a more traditional droner and is certainly transportive in nature. Overall, this work is a contemplative and multi-faceted exploration of narrative that bears closer inspection and reflection.

Gray Lee

https://histaminetapes.bandcamp.com/album/book-of-endangered-species-ht015

SZARA RENETA - "Dawne Cmentarze Żydowskie 2 / Old Jewish Cemeteries 2"

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SZARA RENETA - "Dawne Cmentarze Żydowskie 2 / Old Jewish Cemeteries 2"

(Szara Reneta)

Szara Reneta presents a volume of contemplative field recordings made in the Jewish cemeteries of three villages in southern Poland, Czarny Dunajec and Podwilk. These recordings are peaceful, natural documents of the places in which they were created. Foliage is gently moved by the breeze, birds share their song. In the distance, beyond the borders of these burial grounds, daily life goes on. We often ignore quiet places of reverence that exist in the corners of our hectic lives. We pass by the solemn places of reflection that remind us of our humanity. It is a wonderous thing to close the eyes, and rest in the moment.

Before accepting that moment and chalking this release up as a simple recording of collected sound, take a ride with the far out final track of the release, which is a noisy, intrusive remix of the first track. Droning sounds and digital distortions twist the now familiar sounds in wrenching way that defies understanding. Perhaps this is a statement about human life; how we take things that are peaceful and abandon them to ruin, allowing them to corrupt, dissolve, and become lost to the ages.

Gray Lee

https://szarareneta.bandcamp.com/album/dawne-cmentarze-ydowskie-2-old-jewish-cemeteries-2

RICARDO DIAS GOMES - "Aa"

Ricardo Dias Gomes - “Aa“

(Kill Shaman Records)

Brazil-based experimental artist Ricardo Dias Gomes explores assemblages of fragmented field audio, powerful rhythms, and spoken word to create a compelling release in Aa.

Oozing out of fuzzing speakers with grimy electronic beats and echoed bits of recorded audio, Ricardo summons unnatural energies that flake from the walls of dangerous alleyways onto swiftly moving vehicles in the night. Gravitational forces bend streetlights, causing them to cast unfamiliar shadows. The opening track, Precipio pounds with a dark purpose and a grinding, frayed bass. Near-mic vocals are non-rhythmic and hypnotically conversational. Ambient shards of noise are tossed about, creating misshapen spaces.  The deep heartbeat continues in Tela Parada, as objects scrape on pavement, and the voice intensifies. When an additional beat drops in at the apex of the song, kinetic elements bounce across the audio, leaving pieces behind to spin as the track fades.

Fogo Chama breaks the forward momentum to detail some creative synth composition with brilliantly performed lyrical style. Aa progressively becomes more threatening and aggressive with the heavy drone and obsessive whispers of Partimos Daqui part 1, The crunchy, driving bass line of punk-infused Paranormal, and the thoughtful reflection of Partimos Daqui part 2, and the Cohen-invoking patience and balance of Nenens. Album closer Pre-Revolutionary State offers atmospheric night sounds and a gentle conclusion.

Variety and depth characterize this audio work, and require repeat visits to fully absorb. Ricardo Dias Gomes’ ability to blend action with detail paints a large mural of music here with many brush strokes of experimental sound. Aa is available on LP from Kill Shaman Records.

Gray Lee

https://killshamanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/ricardo-dias-gomes-aa-lp

 

ANDREA BORGHI - "Superelief"

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Andrea Borghi - "Superelief"

 (Hemisphäreの空虚)

Superelief is a collection of gratifyingly tactile audio art pieces that sound like a balance between carefully constructed vignettes of crafted detail, and well-curated edits of natural recordings.  

Using a "prepared turntable," and other gear, Andrea Borghi creates an immediate, organic auditory experience that focuses on a slowly rotating mechanism which objects are dragged across the surface of, or perhaps roll around in a container. The closeness, or even intimacy, of these kinetic impressions strongly command the listener's attention in a meditative way - perhaps not unlike watching a potter at the wheel, shaping clay or a textile worker at the loom. These recordings capture rhythmically ordinary movements that feel familiar, even if we cannot immediately identify the movements themselves.

Ultimately, this powerful piece of minimalist sound art is a good work to return to when the noise of life has become too chaotic, but silence is too still.  

Gray Lee

https://hemispharenokukyo.bandcamp.com/album/superelief

 

[Album of the Month] BENJAMIN SHAW - "Megadead"

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Benjamin Shaw - "Megadead"

(Audio Antihero)

"Ive' got things to talk about/ I've got hell to pay" - Benjamin Shaw

Megadead may be the name  of the latest release from lo-fi indie pop artist Benjamin Shaw, but don't let the morbid name fool you. There is a lot of vulnerable, depressing shoegaze to behold here, but there is also a lot of light and hope. This is certainly one of those occasions where the cover art perfectly fits the content. Sure, there's a skeleton - but look at all that glorious daylight streaming through the window!

The production of this album blends found sounds, field recordings, and carefully executed lo-fi, indie pop songwriting to create a varied listening experience propelled by interest and sustained by detail. Much of the release feels instrumental and ambient, a sound collage of answering machine tapes, and clips of old radio broadcasts, synth compositions, and occasional inward-looking, lonely lyrics delivered by Shaw.  

Benjamin Shaw is a poignant songwriter, who favors a straight-forward exploration of personal feelings over storytelling, or metaphorical meanderings. I have recently decribed his past works as "depression rock," which was said partly in jest - but it actually fits those works pretty well. In this release, however, we see Benjamin flexing his artistic muscle, with heartfelt writings that address homesickness, boredom, weariness, loneliness and a variety of other very human feelings, all with a lightly morose and sometimes humorous air. 

Overall the subtleties and depth of Megadead superseded my expectations of what it was going to be, and I recommend you take a listen when you get a chance. It's definitely Benjamin Shaw's best release to date.  

Gray Lee

https://bnjmnshw.bandcamp.com/album/megadead

MELFI - "Four Concerns"

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Melfi - "Four Concerns"

(Czaszka Records)

Built from two sidelong tracks, Four Concerns is an artistic assemblage of field recordings and artfully crafted synth-sound pieces that ebb and flow from one aural zone into another, creating an audio experience that gains familiarity on repeat listens, but always retains some mystery.

There are a lot of crevices and shadowed areas in this densely packed sculpture of sound that will take some time for your ears to navigate around. From synthesized planes of existence to noise-driven crescendos, all backed with field-recorded ambience and methodical placement of elements, puncuated with improvisational flourishes of astonishing power, Melfi defines a convoluted boundary, then immediately pushes past it. All of this comes together to form a complex piece that challenges the mind while providing an evocative sensory experience.

Gray Lee

https://czaszka.bandcamp.com/album/four-concerns