Noise Level sits in a dim, recessed corner as sounds within its mind mechanically spin and hum, turning like the inner wheels of a worn clock. After the field recording has been captured, an infant of sound comes into being – a new sound which is more of a mutation and less of a clone – and the sound of something as familiar as the coffee machine becomes an abstract, industrialized clang. You may once have remembered the sound, but in its new life the change is permanent and beyond recognition.
The introverted sounds were recorded in a number of ordinary libraries, so hidden inside you’ll hear books being handled and the soft swoosh of paper turning. The drones are, in places, as loud as the felling of trees and as hushed as the paper on which they find themselves, crucified to the page (their new life), and resurrected inside the library’s sanctuary and shrine. The library itself, full of knowledge, ideas, philosophies and imaginations, becomes a place in sound, too. The music has a real muscle and a physicality to it, the library living through its litany of literature, its words igniting in the mind as well as in the dense fog of music. In a place that’s supposed to be a calm island, there’s actually a lot of different fragments scurrying away inside the music.
‘The Shadow Out Of Time’ has a sinister, lurking fear within its pages of dark sound, stuck together by a dank, rough and midnight-black binding. In this track a Lovecraftian, low-hanging drone can only be lit by a series of ill-defined, unknown shadows as whispering children, like those from The Midwich Cuckoos, flit around in the background, warning the listener with a raised finger to the lips – shhhhhh, this is a quiet place. The steady ticking of an old clock announces the passing of seconds, providing a solitary rhythmic backdrop. Things only get darker from here. The chapters are just long enough to sustain an attention span dimmed by reality television, on-demand players and instant gratification, but like the best of stories each track is able to blend sublimely into the next sequence. The familiar beeping of a printer and fax machine fades away until it resembles a beacon pulsing out a signal into the depths of space. A mechanized, industrial ambient/drone is the result, which is strange and interesting because a library is the complete antithesis of disruption and borderline noise.
When you drop the noise of the world, the imagination flourishes and new ideas spark to life, coming to the fore. Prejudices that were previously taught in a subconscious way by an ill culture and a society lacking respect and tolerance for self-expression thankfully disappear. After all, this is a world where intelligence is substituted for stupidity, and level-headedness is stabbed by repetitive, rash and ill-conceived arguments intent on avoiding facts, with no kind of truth to them whatsoever. (I think this is a deep scar in our society itself. The high school intellect is often portrayed as and reduced to a ‘nerd’, is often the subject of bullying, and is made to feel different just because he or she is exercising the muscle of the brain as it was intended to be used. If you ask me, that’s pretty messed up.)
Revolving around this and the short story Noise Level by American science fiction author Raymond F. Jones, the music itself is dark and droning, speaking of the paranormal, a cosmic kind of horror, and music from and emanating out of the depths of the stars. The music is assimilating its own information, not so much reading the drones as scanning them. Interference occasionally scrawls against the mind, disrupting the thought process. The noise level in the mind is being blocked out, allowing the telepathy of ideas to travel into the swirling, dank pools of music. For sound artist Gaetan Gromer, Noise Level marks a new chapter in an impressive and ever-growing catalogue.