Pictures of Men
(Copy For Your Records  2013)

 Review by Chris Whitehead

Maybe a bookcase falls forward and smashes. There are books all over the floor of the room, some face up with pictures and text showing, some face down giving away little more than their titles. A book about jet propulsion engines is next to a description of rural life in the seventeenth century. Categories are rendered accidentally redundant by small catastrophes.

Eyeing the debris and wondering how to recategorise it all breeds anxiety. Bird identification manuals, a treatise on train travel, notes on the action of waves and a pamphlet on how to build your own radio receiver. We organise things, it’s what we do.

Listening to Pictures of Men can be like finding an old cassette in the loft from 1980. One you recorded sounds on that have long since been forgotten, an early foray into what they call field recording. Some can be recognised for what they are whereas others are dull rumbles or rattles whose provenance is obscure .

Fast forward:


Fast forward:


Fast forward:


Element 1: There can be no mistaking the agricultural beginnings of Pictures of Men, plunged as we are into a seething melee of farm animals, their bleats and snorts often abrasive and distressing.  A pungency evolves as sounds trigger olfactory memories. These non human, bestial voices resurface at various times during the 45 minute duration of the piece from beneath ever changing waves of mutability and scree.

Element 2: An undulating electrical resonance underpins the totality. Sometimes well behind proceedings, but often left to gently unfold, bristle, decay and just be. Like a warm, steady current beneath a turbulent surface.  A bit of background microwave radiation soothingly dissolved in perceptive ears.

Element 3: For the souls of those who find pleasure in the unexpected jolt of serendipity, windows open and close and release bursts of captured sound into the world. Unconnected, short yet self-contained passages begin and then abruptly cease. Like opening the doors on a perfectly random advent calendar.

All three elements wrap around each other and operate throughout Pictures of Men with variable degrees of intensity. The work ebbs and flows with the capacity to massage the tympanic membrane or shock it with punishing alacrity. A joyous, extended exploration of the multiplicity of sound, uplifting and liberating in equal measure.

It was created by Farmer and Lacey sending files to each other over a period of several years, so the time taken has allowed this full, intense piece of music to mature and evolve according to the two artists’ individual sensibilities and the unique DNA blueprint of the work itself as life is gradually breathed into it. Oh, and chance too. Chance.

The CD comes with images created by Sarah Hughes depicting dark, imposing houses against white skies with obliterating swathes of pigment defacing them. This is dislocation, disharmony and anguish at the heart of suburban domesticity made visible. It sets the scene for the sense of uneasiness engendered by the music, at least at certain points in the composition.

Maybe a bookcase falls forward and smashes. There are books all over the floor of the room. The first one you pick up is called Pictures of Men by P. Farmer and D. Lacey and flicking through the pages there’s a photograph of a fighter plane over the source of the river Severn, an article on paint strippers and a threnody for collapsing turntables. That’s approximately the size of it.


[David Lacey: up, Patrick Farmer: right; photo courtesy of AQNB]

Patrick Farmer website
David Lacey discography
Copy For Your Records

Chris Whitehead

Sound artist.