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v-p v-f is v-n. VARIOUS ARTISTS
(Winds Measure 2012)

Review by Jay-Dea Lopez

Winds Measure Recordings’ new compilation, “v-p v-f is v-n”, could best be described as a celebration of contemporary field-recording. Featuring sounds captured from swamps, oceans, barns, kitchens and city streets “v-p v-f is v-n” presents a range of recordings that illustrate the diverse interests of field recordists and the sonic richness of quiet moments. With each track averaging between 6 or 7 minutes the audience is granted enough time to sink into the listening experience where they are transported by the sounds of the exotic and commonplace.

“v-p v-f is v-n” is a 2-cd release whose beautiful presentation reflects the aesthetic of the sounds found inside.  The soft and subtle quality of the opening track by Daniel Blinkhorn, “Coral Cnidaria”, is indicative of the field recordists’ approach on this album. For 14 minutes we listen to the gentle pop and crackle of the ocean as movements are heard around the hydrophones. A second marine recording by Blinkhorn features crabs, their hard legs and pincers creating minute metallic snaps which are captured clearly by the microphone.

Following the aquatic introduction the next track, simply titled “Gate”, moves us back onto land as wind buffets strongly against a gate’s wires. An eerie Aeolian harp effect is created, the recording reflecting the joy of discovering sounds emanating from unexpected objects.

Not all of the recordings on the release are from explorations of the outside world – a number of household items are examined within the domestic sphere as well. Hideki Umezawa’s recording of an oil stove captures the familiar creak and groan of its metal frame expanding under heat. There is something comforting about this recording, perhaps reflecting the simple joys of the domestic space.

Jez riley French’s “bathroom then barn Estonia” contrasts with the warmth of Umezawa’s track. Here French presents the bathroom’s ambient tone, which might be imperceptible to without the aid of a microphone, yet once heard, is reminiscent of the low-rumbles often found in the movies of David Lynch.

Michael J. Schumacher’s “air conditioner” is in direct opposition to French’s subtle tone. Instead Schumacher has recorded the unrelenting metallic slams and vibrations of a malfunctioning air-conditioner unit. The recording is quite impressive, although listening to it is a reminder of the low-fi drones associated with the worst of modern living.

Simon Whetham’s “Estonian Swamp” juxtaposes the idyllic bucolic scenes of nature with its less enjoyable realities. The calls of birds singing from the surrounding trees suggests the perfect pastoral retreat, yet the buzzing of a multitude of flies around the microphones sounds far from enjoyable.

Further recordings of nature are found in Ben Owen’s “Elbe” and Lasse-Marc Riek’s “Lake”, each presents a contrasting image of natural spaces in the 21st century. In “Elbe” the gentle movements of water are heard alongside a ferryboat engine, its distance from the microphone creates a sense of calm. However in “Lake” the unrelenting flight of aircraft predominates overhead, with disembodied voices faintly carrying across the lake’s surface. Aside from the title it is hard to believe we are seated near a natural body of water, the recording observing the state of the environment in our lifetime.

There are many more recordings of merit on “v-p v-f is v-n”, each presenting a cross-section of field-recording at its best. A third album in the series is available as a free download and is worth a listen for more top recordings by notable field recordists. “v-p v-f is v-n” was compiled to celebrate “Winds Measure Recordings” 30th release in 6 years. It is a worthy addition to their catalogue. With works such as these we look forward to listening to more releases from “Winds Measure Recordings” in years to come.

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Winds Measure website