Radia. GLENN BACH
(Dust Unsettled 2012)
Standing on a rocky ridge looking out over a vast expanse of landscape in one of Wisconsin’s State Parks beneath an endless sky. The clouds are great citadels of enormous height moving slowly and casting their shadows over the grasslands below. The air is cool and the sun is high.
Long Beach, California sound artist Glenn Bach recorded Radia at various State Parks in California and Wisconsin. The field recordings were then combined with guitar feedback in an extremely subtle way. Released on Brian Lavelle’s Dust Unsettled label, the work is decribed as ‘an exploration of the blurred boundaries of geography, place and memory’, which pretty much nails it.
Radia is a subtle, organic paean to the vast North American wilderness. Rather than grandeur and monumentalism (tropes which have been done to death by numerous painters, photographers and composers), Bach focusses on the clear air and expanding horizons. The solitary figure in the landscape, attentive to the languages and nuances of his environment. Maybe at times there is no figure at all?
Tendrils of guitar generated sound hang in the air like vapour trails, dissolving and reforming in the lucid atmosphere. Sometimes like streamers being twisted in the wind, sometimes like a mist clinging to the ground.
Somehow the music generates these expansive spaces in the listener’s consciousness too. Of course this requires some effort on the listener’s part, but what work of any worth doesn’t? It is a two way process and deep listening yields rewards. Time dilates and the mind is cleansed by clear North American air. I would encourage using headphones and just surrendering.
The field recordings are presented as understated and intimate signs. Rain, grass, birds. At one point a plane flies over, the sound of it’s engine mirroring the drifting feedback that often arches across the tracks on this CD. Planes always draw attention to the spaces above. The extent of the atmosphere, and the fact that wherever you are, the human world is still liable to intrude.
This type of work is often described as ‘lowercase’ music, along with the output of such artists as Steve Roden and Bernhard Günter. However, other than being quite quiet and having few dynamic peaks, it is hard to see the similarity. Although there is space in Radia, there is actually very little silence and there is plenty of detail and development. Also all playback devices have volume knobs these days. You can always turn it up a bit.
Certainly one of my favourite recent releases due to the way it unfurls and the images it conjours. To be able to make a little 5″ silver disc carry such a huge amount of land and sky is quite something.