An engineering blueprint welcomes the listener to The Diary of the Second Officer, an imagined record form of a real journey, a project that reveals not a connection between different places by sound but their possible construction through it. It is in this sense that diaries build worlds like so much literature – places and times unrelated become a part of a narrative, an architecture of the disparate. An album such as this, using sounds recorded throughout airports and cities all over the world and framed as diary, recalls the thematic efforts of Tim Hecker, except that, as a kind of story, it remains on the verge of the lyrical.
This is not a field recording experiment: there is an author in play, and his memories are full of non-characters, of spaces and movement experienced in sounds, arranged as ambient in a manner that does not hinge upon the hazy forgetfulness of being absent-minded that often grounds the genre. This is not a simple travelogue: there is a story in play, a story drawn into its very grammar, leading not to a series of static recognitions (“yep, that sounds just like Lagos!”) but to an endless exercise of the imagination, in other words, to movement, to fill the world with sounds that we know will never remain the same. Diaries will remain while our memories fade away, making the act of remembrance perpetually anew.
So, what is it, then? It is a good piece in a puzzle that has no final resolution, an electronic narrative that breaks into a dozen little fractals, quiet and tranquil, but constantly engaging in no small part thanks to its attention to detail. None of the sounds are overwhelming or last more than a few seconds, the noise of it all channeled into Philip Jeck-like melodies that grind as much as please the ear. It is a project that, like the blueprint on its cover, remains ambiguous when it comes to its realization, something that is both already conceived and yet to be. Perhaps that’s the listeners’ part, a putting together of the pieces according to instructions that say nothing, a mechanical procedure that sparks creativity into action, constructing all these places freely, a diary that has consigned little to record but an idea of how things felt like as the author passed them by. It is significant that the only ‘clear’ piece is the last one, “Arrival”, the end of the story, the chosen word signaling a return and not an infinite going; only the climax is potentially infinite, for the mind’s movement can only go as far as the physical permits it to… only the present seems to stretch to the horizon, ending always in death, in the arrival to a final form.
While the ideas behind this album are not exactly new, their execution is good, and it might linger in your head as you ask yourself what passing through so many places in a row sounds like, whether you conceive of it as a story or an unconnected series of (sound) events shaped by someone completely unrelated to you. After all, we move not only in space and time, but in all sorts of sounds as well. (David Murrieta)