She can be all four seasons in one day. Sting’s words were written for a loved one, but they also apply to this release. Saison Concrète is the sound chronicle of a year, an exquisitely designed symphony of sound from Gruenrekorder’s Lasse-Marc Riek. Riek’s field recording work is well known, but this single long-form piece sets off in an entirely different direction. The key components are the mixture of natural and human elements and the addition of dronelike sounds. It’s the album The Avalanches might have recorded had they been armed with microphones instead of turntables.
For the first few minutes, the sound is barely audible, and one thinks, oh, this is relaxing. But then the pings and pops and rustles and hums set in – sounds that could be expanding ice or factory steam. A gentle, cold rain begins to fall; a sheep bleats, perhaps disgruntled after a long walk. The dual mystery of sound origin and seasonal location only adds to the allure. These recordings are not necessarily arranged by time as much as they are by memory, and memory follows a loose chronology at best. It’s not important to know whether the flock of birds is migrating during a storm or finding shelter; we are able to make up our own stories, prompted by the sonic map. A man tells his granddaughter about the beautiful churches of his youth; chimes toll; private school children pour onto the playground. But time passes so fast, and innocence is lost; already it’s summer, and swarms of bees are on the move. If only we could return to who we once were. If only we had made better decisions. Now the winter is approaching, and we have not yet begun to cut the wood. The sled dogs howl quizzically beside us, waiting to be tethered. We’re all waiting for something, but it passes by like impersonal traffic. But then through the wind and the woods we hear it once again: the traveling carnival has returned to the village, trailing streamers of hope and age-flecked paint. We have made it through another year.
Saison Concrète is a story for all seasons, an invitation to reflect on the line between the cyclical and the straightforward, the observed and the peripheral, the reality and the impression. Teeming with variety and meticulous in construction, it’s destined to echo across the seasons and fold itself into the crumpled map of time. (Richard Allen)