Plaza de Armas (Sonida de Sud America).
(Pseudo Arcana -under commission of Bunkland Records- 2011)

Antony Milton runs the PseudoArcana label from his base in New Zealand. He’s released numerous solo recordings and has also participated in a multitude of groups, duos, trios and any other combination of individuals you choose to mention. Somehow he still finds time to travel, in this case to various locations in South America.

The thing about Milton’s field recordings is that they always sound raw, fresh and full of life. This selection, released under the psudonym Paintings of Windows, certainly stays true to that ethos. The soundscapes of Milton’s South America are teeming with animals, birds, people and vehicles.

The majority of the 21 mostly short tracks were made in Peru and Bolivia with the occasional contribution from Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile. It’s a kind of rolling aural travelogue with each track fading into the next.

In the text accompanying Plaza de Armas Milton describes an eventful bus journey involving a couple of very different ‘snail oil’ salesmen, each in turn pitching their wares to a captive audience of drunken farmers on an autobus.

In Cusco Milton manages to capture a few seconds of a caterwauling beggar. Apparently the wailing man performed his blood curdling moaning on his knees outside the cathedral most nights, but once he had collected enough donations, he dusted off his clothes, patted down his pocket and disappeared into the crowd.

Milton isn’t afraid to let the needle swing into the red. His love of extraneous sounds is evident. The recordings are not cleaned up like clinical exhibits, they are left to breathe and carry their truth with them. During a recording of flamingos and 4WDs, once the music, presumably from the vehicles’ radios, starts to boom, that needle is in the red!

Maria Amelia Barca was an 80 year old widow returning down the Amazon to Iquitos after visiting her family in Lima. Milton had been wandering around the boat with his digital recorder and she wanted to know what it was, this instrument that could capture sound so faithfully. She asked if she could sing into it.

Maria introduces herself, and then sings unaccompanied for a minute or so. The result is truly moving and ends in delighted laughter. Apparently she wanted to listen over and over again to the recordings, and Milton was lucky to get off the boat with his digital recorder still in his posession. This is possibly the only time this woman’s voice has ever been captured.

Strangeness abounds everywhere and the air is full of secret stories. The air is also full of music. During the track Rurrenabaque/Ovalle Night Ambience, music issues forth from radios, pool balls click, motor bike engines rev and a piano plays. Everything exists together and edges are blurred. The track dissolves into a gentle rumble as if the tropical night has consumed everything.

These are just a selection of the many facets that make up Plaza de Armas, but there are many intersecting episodes. A fife and drum music school in a market place in Peru. A blind busker in Cusco. A bus terminal in La Paz. A fiesta parade band playing their celebratory music.

A world full of sound, but more importantly teeming with life.

-Chris Whitehead

Antony Milton discography
Pseudoarcana website

Chris Whitehead

Sound artist.