Last year the Flaming Pines label sent ripples throughout the water-filled earth with the ambitious Rivers Home set. 2012’s first offering is even better – not a tsunami, but a compact, rideable wave. This should come as no surprise, considering the source: a vacation to Costa Rica. Most travelers to the Central American paradise return with dented boards, tropical photos and shimmering memories – the type that can run clear until they jut against the thick skein of inebriation. Seth Chrisman is a different sort of tourist. During his visit, he ventured into the dark with a tape recorder and AM radio, seeking to capture the essence of unfamiliarity by taming its sounds.
In the latest such survey to be publicized, Costa Rica was said to be the happiest nation on earth. It does contain its dangers – a beggar may approach, a billfold may be misappropriated – but there’s little sense of those dangers here. As in real life, such things may be worth mentioning, but they are not the lead stories. Instead, one imagines Chrisman stopping under a banyan tree, attempting to decipher the rustlings in the leaves, gazing through the branches to catch a glimpse of the midnight stars. Around him he feels – if not hears – the familiar comfort of gentle conversation, traffic, the shore. His heart fills with wonder.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a sound may be worth even more. Without mandatory images, a sound can produce unlimited associations. A husband fulfills a promise to nail down a roof flap. Crickets sound their mating calls. Utensils click as they are placed in the drawers. A toddler cries: too much dessert? Too little? An old song on the radio: couples exchange a knowing glance. Beyond the shore, the sea turtles swoop, no longer restrained by their bulk. Around it all, the grains of sand, particles of lives swept up, washed to sea, returned.
Aetherdrift, Do You Copy carries listeners away on a tide of memory. The Costa Rica of this recording is not a pure replica; sound sources have been rearranged, chronologies reshuffled. But in its new configuration, the set is an honest replica, more true than true: the reality that grows roots through reimagination. (Richard Allen)