Framework Radio is one of the world’s top promoters and producers of field recordings and soundscapes. To celebrate their 500th edition, the label has produced a 3-disc set featuring many of the genre’s top artists, backed by an original website option at which one can hear the sleeves being made at the the Räpina Paper Mill. On the CD, it’s a single track, but on the website, it’s nine, a total of forty-five minutes as opposed to five; and we think it would make a great album or podcast on its own. In like fashion, the bookend on CD 3 is “Printing these Words”, from Studio Tartuensis, a brilliant cross-pollination between the physical and aural.
Topping out at nearly four hours, Framework500 does well to vary its timbres. Paper will reappear elsewhere (paper blocks, a paper mill), but also a prayer wheel, tallinn, madder root and a milked camel ~ and that’s just on the first CD. Music and voice are also present: Loren Chasse’s meditative “Moonlight on the Villages”, bowed strings from Matteo Uggeri and Luca Bergero, a monologue from Maria Balabas. By offering such variety, Framework highlights the nuances that have made their podcasts so effective. Of these, Balabas’ entry is the most effective, as her melodious voice is balanced by Romanian field recordings (trains, fireworks, children’s song) and textures from Mihai Balabas and Nicolas Triboi. These elements form an engaging tapestry, a microcosm of the set as a whole.
On the second disc, Keith de Mendonca highlights both the human and the spiritual on “Echo”, which revisits recordings made in prior years of monks and nuns, clocks and bells. A generation ago, chant discs were extremely popular, but in recent years, the inclusion of natural sounds around such chants has proven much more compelling. For the same reason, the traffic around the parade in Martin Clarke’s “Varinasi” comes across as part of the authentic experience: no sonic scrubbing is necessary. The most unusual piece on the disc is the drone-like “Caudron”, recorded by Kodama at a witch’s well in Switzerland. The flutes, running water and incantations form an intimidating sheen. But Eric Cordier’s “Les Gardiens de la Fort” comes close, because just when it seems like a pure field recording of a Guyanan rain forest, unusual chants enter the sonic field. Meanwhile, fans of winter music (that includes me) will love Jonathan Coleclough’s “Köln Fork”, which combines the sounds of cracking glass and falling snow.
Disc 3 begins with the sounds of site favorite Jim Haynes, whose “We Feared There Was an Unfortunate Woman Among Them” blurs the lines between field recording and soundscape. Recorded partially in a shipping container (or is that a metaphor?) the piece builds in intensity until the center, when it retreats to a series of soothing, elongated bell tones. Thomas Tilly’s “Mycelial Path” continues the mystery with chains and construction sounds, eventually falling into water, while Emanuele Mieville mixes movie projector and elevator sounds, in the process inventing a whole new breed of elevator music. As previously mentioned, the whole affair closes with the sound of the Tartu Printing Museum ~ again presented in one format on the disc and heard from multiple angles on the product page. Releases don’t get much more personal than this; it’s the furthest thing from faceless that one can imagine. We congratulate Framework on their 500th edition and are already looking forward to Framework1000! (Richard Allen)