40:31. MECHA / ORGA
(Impulsive Habitat 2012)
Track 1 [16:49] for the most part is a long study in broadband noise, sea by the sound of it. It eventually picks up momentum and amplitude in the middle with a hint of a richer range of sea sounds, as if you’ve walked into a heavy surf bay. What we have here is an investigation of place. Because it doesn’t scream at you the piece has either been very well equalised, or the microphones were of a particular quality. There is some element of movement within the panorama but this is not a prominent feature. The piece finishes with what sounds like an intervention in the shape of woody clunking sounds.
Track 2 [9:58] begins as a low frequency study with nothing above 400Hz for the first two and a half minutes. Then a midrange creeps slowly but surely up the spectrum and into the higher reaches, a dynamic filter. Soon we’re back into the seascape, though aware this time of the frequency bands. A sense of movement takes over as the waves rush around. One of a few sudden breaks peppered throughout the album makes its impact at around 6:30, introducing a repetitive woody banging sound with a distinctive echo, which sounds more like a composed section comprising a taste of counterpoint and overlapping rhythms. This percussive iterative section returns to simple strikes, as if alluding to an arch form. We fade out on a gentle combination of woody sounds with a broadband layer and possible train or factory squeaks heard from a distance. Like track 1, this piece comes over very much as an investigation of place.
The third and final track [13:42] is a clearly sectional piece. It sounds here as if we’re up close to some of the factory squeaks mentioned in track 2. The sounds certainly resemble those of a working industrial unit: metallic chinks, factory ambience, doors sliding, footsteps, (a horse!?), then gentle watery sounds. Maybe there’s a narrative at work though it seems to me like we are being treated to a ‘walk-through’ kind of thread which holds the work together. All the sounds are again very easy on the ear, so attention has obviously been taken not to tear your head off with screaming midrange or high frequencies.
The more expansive second section sounds more diffused, possibly due to the use of timestretched material, which raises the possibility, just that and no more, of the beginnings of a morphological investigation of timbre.
Next follows a section with machine clunking and broadband background sound – something meaningful is going on in the workplace. Techniques like a prominent midrange crescendo and sudden dropout reveal the compositional hand at work. The ubiquitous seascape returns, this time with birds and indeterminate fluttery sounds, all of which cuts abruptly to a filtered slowed down version of the clunking sounds, further evidence of a compositional approach, making best use of a restricted selection of material.
The piece finishes with a foregrounded gristly higher frequency sound, either seashells being activated, or a speeded up version of earlier sounds.
Overall this work is a good example of what artists can do with a loosely compositional approach to field recordings, as opposed to a more rigorous and austere aesthetic, say, of tight framing within a conceptual documentary presentational context.