As the summer starts to draw to a close, a melancholic flavor sets in. One yearns to retreat in time, if only by a month or so, to extend the season. Salt Sea Island is a balm to the withdrawing spirit, carried by the tide.
Following in the footsteps of last year’s Becoming – Dissolve, Stefan Paulus’ Salt Sea Island continues to investigate diverse sonographies, guided by will and chance. Not simply a field recording, but an interaction, the album melds the sounds of Paulus’ journeys with the ambience of piano and pads. The music adds a yearning touch to the natural sounds, acting like a light icing. On “beta zerfall”, shore waves remain dominant despite the distant echoes of an unfinished song. Then a cold wind arises, threatening to extinguish the hum; on its heels, the cries of children imply a victory over weather.
Paulus claims an affinity with William S. Burroughs, in that his sounds are “cut up and fold(ed) in”. At its core, the album is a sonic travelogue, a record of the artist’s aural travels. Paulus writes, “I dislocated myself, followed animal trails deep into german woods, crossed the alpine valley of ötztal, recorded on mountain peaks, atlantic and pacific islands and sea ports. I connected with unknown persons. I jumped into the next subway, the nearest bus and got somewhere out”. Upon his return, he mixed together the sounds like colors, forming an altogether different sort of island: one of the imagination. Salt Sea Island is what the artist recalls or chooses to recall from his travels: a shifting landscape of physical and metaphorical shores. The choir of cowbells in “a journey into a spacial fold” provides the album’s loveliest moments, but the most memorable are brought by the cows themselves, especially one who seems able to enunciate the “moo”. The reverie is shattered by power tools, disrupting a lovely farm day as it fades into an airplane-filled night. If the artist is commenting on human intrusion, he’s done so cleanly. The closing track returns to the island, replete with storms; but at the end a fog horn, an invitation to a new journey. (Richard Allen)