(3Leaves 2012)

Michael Trommer’s latest release from 3LEAVES, ‘HTO’, really caught me by surprise. From the title and description I was anticipating a collection of conventional water recordings made at various locations along Toronto’s waterfront, possibly above and below the water line, but something fairly standard nonetheless. What I encountered however, was something much more complex and layered.

As the liner notes explain, ‘HTO’ has its roots in field recordings made along the city’s waterfront, as well as at the sites of buried rivers and extinct shorelines. The notes also point out that significant layering has been used in order to bring together sonic variations in both the recording techniques and the recording locations themselves. The end result is an abstract representation of Toronto’s water-related history.

At times, the overarching theme of water is clearly evident – hydrophone recordings, boat rigging clinking in the wind and calling gulls help with this – while at others, a more imaginative attitude is required. Given the variety of recording methods employed – contact, hydrophone, binaural, induction and boundary microphones – it seems only natural that ‘HTO’ should possess a more ethereal nature.

Some tracks were arranged ‘live’ in the field, thereby adding another layer of interest to the publication. The concept of mixing tracks at the place of recording, inevitably drawing inspiration from both the visual and acoustic environments, is an interesting one. I would have liked to know which tracks were created in this fashion but we are left guessing.

The aesthetics of a publication is of course important and ‘HTO’ definitely succeeds here. A lovely touch is the inclusion of 3 images taken, presumably, during Trommer’s recording journey. This is a very simple addition, yet it’s these little things that make a publication really shine. There is also an accompanying video that can be accessed through the 3LEAVES website.

For me, ‘HTO’ creates a feeling of the ephemeral; of something momentary and fluid that cannot be completely grasped or anchored down. Much like the recording location itself, with the faded memories of buried waterways and vanished shorelines, this collection of manipulated field recordings explores the everchanging nature of a place and allows us to experience one facet of Toronto’s rich sonic history.

[Michael Trommer, photo courtesy of Impulsive Habitat]

-Cheryl Tipp

3Leaves website
Michel Trommer website 

Cheryl Tipp

Wildlife sounds curator at British Library.