Concrete Antenna began as a piece commissioned by the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop for an interactive art installation in a newly-constructed tower. Field recordings of nearby docks, harbors, and railways were fed into the exhibit to create a sense of place, a grounding of aural dynamics. As Perman states, “the funnels sound like a giant resonating antenna.” Heat and motion sensors react to visitors, enticing them with words and “rewarding them with music.” The sounds one hears mutate according to the weather and the changing tides. By honoring its surroundings, the 28-metre-high sculpture ingratiates itself to those who might otherwise ask, “Why build a tower? Why do it here?” The installation calls attention to its surrounding environment in a way that the environment itself does not ~ an irony that is certainly not lost on the presenters.
The physical package is released by Random Spectacular, who lives up to its surname by including a collection of art prints, essays and a time table (along with the LP of course!). This is no ordinary release; it looks and sounds like an objet d’art. Add the fact that there is local history behind the project, and that the music – this music – continues to tumble and abrade, tape loop to artifact, field recording to echo. One cannot help but be humbled. If only other artists put so much work into their releases! But then of course we would all be broke, pleasantly so but broke nonetheless.
The piano is a lovely addition, but not the only addition. Church bells resonate, local birds chirp, and the cleverly-named “fogorgans” sound a forlorn cry. From time to time, a crackle of radio static can be heard, as if a message is being received from the local lighthouse. Snippets of dialogue bob and sink in the tide, so quiet that one wonders if one has really heard them. Listening is like entering a sanctuary that amplifies all that is good and true about the natural and artificial worlds, demonstrating that they are able to live in harmony. The repeated chords of “Branch Line” provide a sense of peace, drifting in circles like completed thoughts. “Fog Signals” sounds like a calliope, and “Harbour Fireworks” like a celebration – which of course it is. It can take a lot of work to look upon the world with kindness, and to want to return it, but this is exactly what Perman, Kirby and St. John have done, and the world is better off as a result. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 14 September