Here’s a great test for A Closer Listen staffers: play one side of an LP containing collaged field recordings, and another side containing these same field recordings, enhanced by drones. Then challenge them to label the sides. Even after learning the answer, the ears remain fooled; Cédric Peyronnet’s (toy.bizarre‘s) side seems more like a soundscape, while Sascha Stadlmeier’s (EMERGE‘s) side seems more like a field work. The blurred line underlines the congruity between field recording and structured drone; on this release, the artists flip the script.
French sound artist Peyronnet (who also records as ingeos) has been sitting on these recordings for quite a while. Originally captured in a mine two decades ago, these crumbling, reverberant, rock-based sounds were recently given the once-over, as if the artist had suddenly realized that he had mined a vein of sonic gold. The opening minutes include the sound of gravel, backed by a cavernous, looped echo; as the piece develops, the sound of stone seems to turn into the sound of steel, while a higher-pitched drone develops. Then it all drops out, like the silence after a person has fallen down a well. One imagines the flickering flashlight, the illuminated petroglyph, the broken leg, the shattered transmitter. From here, it’s an arduous journey back to the light.
When an avian-like aural pattern develops toward the end of “kdi dctb 018[a]”, followed by an even more oppressive whorl, one remembers that the word composition applies to collage as much as it does to the genesis of sounds. Whenever a conscious choice is made that alters the frequency, order or amplitude of field recordings, it becomes a soundscape. Peyronnet excels in this field because he has an ear for development. Nothing in “[a]” or “[b]” seems random; this is already a fully-fledged work. By the midpoint of “[b]”, cacophony threatens to overwhelm the listener, in the same manner as immersive drone; it’s humbling to think that the source recordings stem from nature.
Now enter EMERGE, the head of the Attenuation Circuit label, who must have been overjoyed to have such rich source material to work with. Known primarily as a noise/drone artist, EMERGE turns in a surprisingly restrained side-long piece, softer than toy.bizarre’s side but more overtly rhythmic. With the exception of the looped percussive noises, one cannot tell the difference between the natural and the manipulated. The “new” drones may take the place of the “old”, but primitive music took its cues from nature, while effective modern music connects listeners to primeval roots.
Repetition exists on both sides, but the transitions (beginning at 2:18) are more abrupt than one might usually encounter outside of composition. One recognizes the sounds of Side A when one hears them again on Side B ~ the crackling, the rustling, the dull roar. The shattered glass sounds of the twelfth minute are sharper, but the hums are quieter, creating a different sort of contrast. In the fifteenth minute, the artist seems to be drawing on the mine wall with a rock. The human element is more apparent here, where it is not expected ~ the artist’s familiar walls of sound have been replaced by sound with walls.
This split release is a fascinating document on two levels. Both musically diverse and psychologically challenging, it entertains while posing questions of how we hear and interpret sonic data. As a sonic dialogue, this split release is far more than the sum of its parts. (Richard Allen)