Australian sound artist Tessa Elieff (Tattered Kaylor) has created and curated many workshops, festivals and sound installations over the past few years, but her recorded discography (including last year’s debut album Selected Realities) is expanding her reach to a global audience. Sombre nay Sated, released on World Listening Day (July 18), gives listeners a metaphorical window into the rooms of some recent installations.
Elieff’s fascination with perception as it pertains to “sonic realities” was put to the test on this recording, as none of the three pieces were meant to be confined to the studio. As frequent visitors to performances and installations can attest, depth, space and movement are key factors. In many cases, a sound cast in one room is meant to be echoed in another. How then does one translate such an environment to a stereo experience – one that will itself be colored by its own sonic environment during playback? In this case, Elieff repositions sounds while assigning them a finite length (which must have been maddening): 25 minutes, three tracks. More importantly, she floods each piece with segments of immediacy, guaranteeing that each will command the listener’s attention at some point, no matter what else may be happening in the home, car, or wherever the works are being played. The richness and thickness of these sounds often topples the amalgamations into a pleasing metallic drone, especially at the end of the first two pieces and the center of the third.
“Waves 2009” travels the smallest distance from composition to recording, as it was originally recorded in stereo, although intended for live diffusion. The sounds were recorded in conjunction with Cadif’s Jacques Soddell, and rise from humble synthetic origins to a full drone by the third minute. A lower-pitched drone enters in the fourth, turning the timbre to the dark and disturbing. Time-stretched vocals poke through the electronic sheen; disembodied syllables search for sentences. The lighter “Taken to Booroomba” is a second generation piece comprised of sounds from the Uli Keuhn installation “Robot”. Initially presented at the famous climbing site (pictured to the right), it was re-recorded for this release. One wonders what effect the outdoor sounds (thunder, rain, birds) had on the outdoor population, especially if precipitation were already present! “The Broken Return” closes the set with manipulated recordings of “Minigit”, an installation by Andreas Trobollowitsch; like the first piece, it begins softly, but gathers electronic sheets along the way. The most appealing: a helicopter-like warble that closes the fourth minute.
When listening to Tattered Kaylor, we’re not just listening to Tattered Kaylor; we’re listening to other artists through her aural lens. Sombre nay Sated invites us to consider the subliminal ways in which we translate our own sonic experiences. Would Elieff be honored if someone were to position these pieces (with attributions, of course!) as the foundations of their own re-imaginings? One suspects so. To this artist, sound interpretation is more important than sound preservation. (Richard Allen)