What are the characters of the water margin? Creatures of sea, sky and land, converging on a single location; anthropomorphized pebbles, waves and debris; stalwart watchers on the bluffs. Loren Chasse gives all equal weight on his new disc, recorded at the convergence of Washington’s Hoh River, Pacific Ocean and Olympic Rainforest. As one might expect, this resonant location lends itself to deep and varied sonorities.
A parabolic story lends the recording additional weight. According to legend, the location was once home to a race of “upside down people” who were set upright by a local god. Chasse playfully wonders if the inverted folk once “listened at ground level”. This is how children listen, as they are not only close to the ground, but tend to sprawl and roll on it, especially at beaches. They also tend to notice things adults do not: tiny skeletons that their parents urge them to drop, smooth stones with rings around them, beach glass weathered by salt and surf. They hear the sound of pebbles receding with the tide, the cries of gulls, the wind in rusted cans. They duck their heads underwater and click stones together; they speak and hope to be understood. Chasse captures the sounds that children and Chalá-at cherish. Characters at the Water Margin is less an amplification of sounds unheard as it is an underlining of sounds ignored.
The crinkling of “setting a dry thing upright” is crisp and wet at once, like an air bubble in seaweed. Walking the wrack line, one finds treasure and sets up tiny shrines. The gulls echo in the distance, oblivious or uncaring. “striking cedar tongues” possesses the timbre of light bongos, preserving the taps of weathered trees as they tumble in the tide. The short and unusual “shell comb and a cinder ring” sounds like a conversation between found objects, which it may well be. Meanwhile, the other characters of the water margin scurry below the surface; they bob in the waves; they bury themselves in rot and attach themselves to rocks. Even the dead characters teem with life. (Richard Allen)