“Write what you know” is a common piece of advice given to authors; it applies to composers as well. A couple months back, we reviewed Valiska‘s Record of 37, a series of field recordings inspired by a bus ride to the train. As the artist works next to a train yard, this should come as no surprise. Valiska’s latest two-track effort is inspired by various forms of transportation: “Land I” by rush hour traffic and “Land II” by freight and commuter trains traveling through tunnels and around bends. By writing what he knows, the artist brings his subject to life. The beauty of this release is that it contains no actual field recordings; instead, it translates sound to impression, impression to sound, forging a document twice removed yet eerily true.
While listening to “Land I”, it’s easy to imagine the time-lapse photography of the commuter section of Baraka, specifically the stop-and-go of cars and pedestrians at city lights. The track stutters forward, hesitates, and stutters forward again: a cycle of interrupted movement. Electronic in nature, it mimics the blinking of walk signals and brake lights, although thankfully not the one-fingered salutes and the honking. “Land II” moves slowly at the start like a train leaving the station. As the wheels pick up speed, sudden rail rushes are imitated through thickening, vibrating drones. The most effective of these segments begins at 2:45 and never quite dissipates. Random sounds reminiscent of the clack of metal against metal enter at 3:42. Just as rail passengers are never quite sure what that noise is underneath the car, the listener remains puzzled by the flickering pops. This subtle disorientation is part of the travel process, but it takes a frequent rider to remember it, as it often registers only in the subconscious.
Land was initially intended to be part of a larger transportation work. It’s a great start; one hopes that the artist reconsiders his decision to stop here. (Richard Allen)