(Felt Collective 2013)
Review by Jay-Dea Lopez
Night-time. Without light to guide us we are reliant upon auditory cues. Surrounding us are the sounds of an unfamiliar nocturnal terrain. Clicks and pops emerge from the shadows, electrical pulses ebb and flow. For the majority of us the world we inhabit is known only through the comfort of the visual; when darkness falls we are left disoriented. Movements of sound swarm above us in the unlit air and from the darkened earth beneath our feet. It is this world that Japanese field recordist Hiroki Sasajima presents the listener in his latest release “Circle Wind”.
Recorded around Tokyo and other urban areas of Japan Sasajima’s aim in Circle Wind was to capture a “feeble vibration and passage of air”. To achieve this Sasajima recorded between the hours of midnight and dawn, a period of time when our auditory faculties may be more attuned to hearing subtle vibrations or when the lack of human activity allows the sounds of the nocturnal to be heard.
Guided by Sasajima we hear the many voices of crickets and other insects. Their calls are piercing and alien to an ear used to the sounds of the diurnal. One of the more beautiful recordings on “Circle Wind” is titled “Shade Leaf”. It is a six-and-a-half minute recording of insects whose high-pitched stridulation builds and falls in what could almost be described as a communal breath. Life slows down as we enter the rhythm of their world.
Not all the works on “Circle Wind” are untreated field recordings. In “Calmness” Sasajima treats a recording through a metallic delay effect. The introduction of this work halfway into the release helps to reinvigorate our attention to the ensuing field recordings. Similarly other works move away from recordings of wildlife and instead focus upon sounds in obviously human spaces. “In the Stone Wall” features the sounds of rain or drops of water splashing close to the microphone. The drops echo inside what sounds like an abandoned space. The final track, “Momentum”, juxtaposes the distant thunder and a wavering electronic tone with clicks and pops in the foreground. It is a little unsettling, as if Sasajima has moved in time to record a period before or after human existence.
Nocturnal creatures are difficult to anthropomorphise. Their unfamiliarity often triggers emotional responses of fear or loathing. Yet the success of Sasajima’s “Circle Wind” is that he finds beauty in their mystique. The field recordings presented on “Circle Wind” remind us that not all is known about this earth. Wonder still exists. I listened to this release and waited for night to fall so that I too could listen to the vitality of life in the darkness.