The worlds of digital and analog recording have always existed, if not in a state of outright warfare, at least in decidedly unharmonious discord. Analog is a retreat for the purists, the cardigan-clad record or cassette collector pawing through the dusty stacks at Ye Olde Records near closing time, occasionally pausing to push up his black-frame glasses. Digital, on the other hand, is a more populist game, for the tech and gadget junkies, making access to recording equipment easier than ever. On that accord, the two worlds are in some concordance: convenience is key.
Listening to a song as an mp3 or wav versus its twin on vinyl, even the most casual of listener must realize the jarring difference: warmth versus ice, digital white sheen versus blurry color. Deterioration, the new Flaming Pines release from British soundmaker David Newlyn, attempts to reconcile these two disparate worlds, a neutral flag-waving Switzerland between looming, giant Axis and Allied powers.
Newlyn took to the wilds near Bruges to document the outlands where manmade and natural sound collide. It’s a hoary old chestnut of a subject in experimental music that nonetheless is made fresh and intriguing again in Mr. Newlyn’s capable hands. Recording with a number of lo-fi devices, from microcassette recorders to phones to cameras, Newlyn manages to paint a sense of landscape, of place, that doesn’t always seem apparent in the chilly confines of avant garde sound. There’s a sense of push and pull tension here, between the constant hiss of electronics and the documented sounds, between the low-quality rumble of tinny noise in one channel and the more polished sheen in the other. Tape vs. laptop, analog vs. digital, vinyl versus mp3; war has never sounded so melodic, so gently sweet.
The closest counterpart that comes to mind here is early Boards of Canada, from the lush synth washes of “Dependence”, to the darker tones of “Away From The Receiver”, to the hiss-drowned piano of “A Different Person”. Later, “Deletion On” closes the album with gentle swells and a field recording of unknown origin, and the all-too-brief thirty-five minutes of Deterioration come to a soft close. Like the troubling static lurking beneath the surface of “Atheist”, these are sounds slipping into light all too briefly, before decaying like flares or fireworks, raining down into darkness again, leaving only the faintest afterglow of their beauty against the sky. (Zachary Corsa)