Viennese sound artist R. Schwarz has dual Master’s degrees in art and architecture, both of which come to bear on his careful constructions. Just as he merges disciplines in his sound and installation art, he utilizes a variety of pseudonyms in his studio work, as if implying that the product is more important than the producer. On the new album, this approach produces a contrast between the precision of the compositions and the vagueness of the original sources; we know where they came from, but not what they are. At times we hear what may be a brook, a bee hive, a buzz saw; but we’re not sure. It would be easy to go out on a limb and say that “Frost” contains the sound of receding waves over pebbles, but all we can ascertain is that it sounds like such waves, followed by sleet, steel and hypoxia.
Schwarz scours the original field recordings for “unheard details and hidden layers”, and brings them to the fore. He discerns patterns where none are intended and underlines them with sonic markers. “Nature is chaos”, he claims, but these recordings seem to indicate the opposite; to impose order on disorder is to create that very disorder. “Self-Propelled Sound Particles” (the “bee” track) presents patterns that seem less natural in recorded form than they might if observed in real time; repetitions seem suspect, and the track contains clear temporal boundaries.
The value of the recording is the amplification that Schwarz provides, both physical and psychic. The LP title is indicative as it refers to scale. By extracting these “hidden” sounds, he opens a window to a wider sonic world. “With the Witch” becomes not only an echo of a woodpecker’s work, but a question of how much we hear in a given situation. Do we hear only the wind and the birds in a forest, or do we hear the thickness of the sonic canopy, along with its muted pockets? These sounds come streaming in on the following track, only to retreat: a predator, nearby? Or Schwarz, casting the sounds in relief in order to emphasize an avian call and response?
In the end, the listener is left with a feeling of humility; no longer the largest, most dangerous animal in the area, the human is instead the one who hears the least, and as such is in the most danger. By highlighting sounds beneath our perception (or notice), Schwarz re-adjusts the scale of things, and challenges us to revise our self-centric perceptions. (Richard Allen)