(Green Field 2012)

Listening to Darius Ciuta’s sound art can be like waking up in some unknown landscape. You can’t work out how you got there in the first place and there seem to be no signs to guide you. On looking around, you realise that actually you can see for miles. Then you start becoming aware of the details right there under your feet, not things you’d normally notice. A small variation of texture, perhaps an unexpected undulation in the surface of a tiny exposed outcrop. On exploring further, you realise that the place is actually rather interesting, and the things in it have a life of their own. It becomes a deeply fulfilling environment and you become attuned to its peculiar and very hypnotic features. Then the track ends, it’s two in the morning and you have to be up for work the next day, but anyway you need to get back in there where the air is full of tiny floating particles of sound, so you press play again.

Listening to Darius Ciuta’s sound art can be like not going to sleep at all.

[Darius Ciuta: photo from an article about him on Kamane]

Obviously this is all speaking in metaphors, and I believe Ciuta wants these beautiful constructions to exist as and of themselves. He has explained in a recent interview with Fluid-Radio that any visual material allied to his art distracts and misguides the listener.  He says “I am sure that any visualisation – be it textual or graphic – doesn’t complement sound. I would even say that it is a hindrance. It dis-informs and creates confusion”. This also explains the use of acronyms rather than comprehensible titles. Clearly Ciuta is asking us to disarm ourselves of expectation, narrative, context and preconception, and to enter with ears intent on listening clearly and deeply.

Knowing that this is the view of the composer, writing about his sound feels a bit like desecrating it. Whatever happens a reviewer’s comments may sit in the mind of the listener and detract from their personal listening experience. It is impossible to write about ‘MINA’ without explaining some of the features you’ll come across should you download it, so reviewing it could be perceived as going against its author’s wishes.

With this in mind, here’s an interesting exercise: Why not download and listen to ‘MINA’ without reading further, and then compare the rest of this review with your own experience. I’m sure we all come away with different impressions, whatever art we partake of. This is just how I see it.

‘MINA’ is just over an hour in duration, and unlike some of Ciuta’s compositions, it certainly has links to the concrete and tangible. It has seemed in the past that works such as ‘L-C (loop – coil)’ (Impulsive Habitat 2011) or ‘H_CS’ (Echomusic 2012) have somehow spontaneously coalesced from silence. As if the recording apparatus is not there and a memory card or disc has been left in a place to gather material directly from the ether. The creator’s hand is not always apparent (by ‘the creator’ I mean Darius Ciuta, not God).  Focus, restraint and subtlety are key components here.

Recurring features that serve to pin the piece together and give a feeling of cohesion include a creaking element that pretty much punctuates ‘MINA’ throughout. A straining rope perhaps or stressed wood? There is the clink of cutlery against plates, occasional broadcast radio or TV sound, distant and not so distant voices, a restaurant piano, water, sounds from workplaces and birdsong.

It contains many disparate elements skilfully positioned together in a laminar fashion. The layers move over each other like the  layers of water in the ocean, each one of a differing temperature. Several environments coexist, sliding over and under others, yet they never become consumed or engulfed. It appears that everything exists on an equal footing with every other thing. Small sounds are given strong focus and set against backgrounds clearly gleaned from real environments.

Of all the Darius Ciuta compositions I’ve listened to so far, I think this is the one with the most components, yet it is still recognisably Ciuta’s work. There is always a stillness there and an elegance of flow. Many combinations of elements cycle over and over again for a period of time during ‘MINA’. This process becomes like a hook, and for a while you know what is going to happen next, like watching the waves in the sea. It gives you time to take in how the layers interlink. You can explore the same combination of sounds repeatedly in different ways. Examine textures. Listen to the horizontal movement and the vertical depth.

Sometimes a sinister wind appears from nowhere and adds an air of foreboding, and occasionally, particularly towards the end, a sudden tide of sound rolls in catching you completely unaware. The whole composition tapers off to an undulating hum that evens out into a steady state electronic drone bringing everything to a universal stillpoint.

-Chris Whitehead

Darius Ciuta website
Green Field website

Chris Whitehead

Sound artist.