Here’s a release for the blackest of hearts: a black book with black ink, housing a black disc, titled Dark Sound. In addition, the price of the package is determined by the crude oil Brent price at the time of purchase. The website warns customers that by buying the book, they will be “contributing to the destruction of the planet.” Now that’s bleak. However, it’s also the most honest advertising we can remember.
So is this gothic music? Industrial? No, it’s darker than that. But what could possibly be darker than a demon? one might ask. How about a duck covered with oil, or a child swallowing water from a polluted river? Got you. Yes, this is real horror.
I feel that I must be honest too. The book is a pain to read. It reminds me of the black leopard I once saw at the San Diego Zoo. The creature made no sense to me. I couldn’t see its spots – black on black – until it turned a certain way, until iridescence made the marks visible. The same is true of the book. You’ll need just the right light. But it’s worth reading: a collection of essays, photography (black), poetry, redacted documents, glossaries and reports of the impact the oil industry has had on Ecuadoran environments. Let the disc play; the experience will be concurrent. Swiftly arrives the sound of thunder, foreshadowing intact.
All is peaceful at first, natural, unadorned. But then those other sounds start to creep in: our sounds. An airplane. An extraction machine. Underwater generators. All the while, Nieto is growing close to his natural subjects: ants, bats, birds, fish that leap from the water to escape larger fish. And yet he is apologetically aware that he is changing the environment by his very presence, and by his machines. The barons are less conscience-stricken; as the book’s chronology demonstrates, they are driven by profit, pushing as far as they can in every instance, claiming the justification of demand. While the “uncontacted people” attack workers over the disturbance of noise, their violence generates sympathy. A far more chilling crime is the hotel room robbery of the recording artist, as security does nothing to stop the thief. His property ~ which fortunately did not include his computer – is never recovered.
By the halfway mark, “the sounds of the forest (have been) driven away or smothered by the sound of engines”. Only when the machinery rests does the local tapestry re-emerge. And yet, as one author indicates, the pre-eminent silence is not that of the indigenous people or non-human species, but that of the local indignation. Money buys trials, redactions, law enforcement, turned heads. To read the book is to read something that looks secret because it is hidden. To listen to the composition – 34 recordings blended into a single track – is to realize that noise can be murder. (Richard Allen)