The sounds of everyday life frequently saturate the music on A Passage of Concrete – indeed, if you were to listen to just the second track “Visiting A Recent Past” you might think we should be filing this under the Field Recordings category, such is the prevalent use of street sounds. There are keyboards here but they are very much the background texture to the atmosphere that Ezekiel Honig has captured here. It’s an effective method of working but he doesn’t let it dominate, preferring instead to keep the field recordings as separate vignettes – “November 2015”, “August Rooftop” – between the electronic meditations, where samples are used more incidentally. There are pulsing rhythms here but the overall feel is of introspection and reflection.
The electronic tracks utilise the field recordings through sampled beats and the occasional effect, for the most part, rather than sit in the foreground – this is what gives A Passage of Concrete an unifying sound. So what could have been the sound of a rattling shopping trolley in one track is turned into a percussive click elsewhere. Children’s voices that are upfront on one piece, are used purely as texture on another. It’s nowhere more obvious than on “A Slow Expansion” which builds the track around a heartbeat’s pulse, looping a child’s words or a van’s door closing into a rhythm; on top of this Honig paints a full stereophonic picture of people walking by on the street.
There are perhaps two key elements that inform A Passage of Concrete – firstly, that although Ezekiel Honig moved to Los Angeles in 2014 he clearly misses the east coast and it is the sounds of New York, not his new home, that permeate this album. There is nothing like the familiar noises of the old neighbourhood to send you off into a reverie, and that is what happens here; the slow, warm notes of the keyboards envelop the listener in a dreamlike state. The other element is down to Honig’s own artistic and academic pursuits. He hasn’t exactly been prolific in terms of releases since his 2011 album on Type, Folding In On Itself but he has written a book about the sonic possibilities of everyday objects – Bumping Into A Chair While Humming.
If the book provides the theory, then this album is the practical demonstration of Honig’s ideas and techniques, and thankfully it is more than up to the task. It doesn’t overplay the field recording elements, but by filtering them throughout the record it forms a coherent sound picture of a city. Not only does it present New York in a new light but it will send you out onto the streets of your town with a fresh appreciation of the sights and sounds of your surroundings. (Jeremy Bye)