Aven refers to that which is hidden, yet still is heard: underground shafts through which air reaches the surface. Fascinated by Iceland’s natural geothermal activity, Bethan Kellough recorded the subterranean rumbles and upper-level hisses, and augmented them with wind recordings made in Iceland and South Africa. Only the very trained ear will be able to distinguish the difference between South African wind and Icelandic wind (Savannah bush, strands of straw), but neither identification nor deception is her intention. This soundscape is inspired by the very nature of sound.
While field recordings are the lead story, the artist also plays violin. Her gentle strings allow her to shape the soundscape into a personal reflection. What do you hear in these sounds? she asks without words. What drama can be heard in rising rumbles and twists of wind? To escape through a shaft from an underground cave is to act out a myth, and Kellough provides just the right balance of darkness and light.
For the most part, the success of the strings is in their subtlety, but a few exceptions apply. When Kellough shifts from light drone to composed notes in “Vision”, the attention shifts from the earth to the artist, performing a pas de deux with the planet. Her sound design is exquisite, as she allows the growing rushes to battle and briefly overwhelm her own music. “Canopy” includes both violin and piano, challenging the listener to define which sound source is canopy and which is shade. Again the earth’s drones rush in to dominate the sound field, but this time, Kellough matches them with a rising volume of her own. Only in the aftermath does the wind subside, although it is more proper to say that the artist causes the sound of the wind to subside. Job may have rued the futility of chasing the wind, but at least in one sense, this sound artist has managed to capture it. (Richard Allen)