Moving into a new place is fun, but can also be a little bit scary. There are new noises to adjust to inside and out: the hum of appliances, the clanking of heaters, the creaking of boards. One wonders if there are creatures in the attic or the walls. Nearby trees moan and shake. Odd birds appear at odd hours. New construction and traffic patterns emerge. Now add neighbors, children and pets. This is what Jeff T. Byrd experienced as he moved to a new apartment in Vienna.
Byrd’s experience in sound design, along with a natural curiosity, inspired him to record the sounds of his new environment and to incorporate them into a series of compositions. Lamb Alley is the end result. The tape traces the aural outlines of his home and attempts to turn unfamiliar into familiar via repetition. As Byrd grows acclimated, his listeners do as well.
While the tracks are billed as ambient, the steady tempos imply more electronic forms. “Entry” seems to explore the sound of a lock being turned, although it may well be a turn signal or windshield wiper. The clicks are matched by piano notes. But not everything fits this profile. “Lift” is downright creepy, as one might expect an old elevator to be, especially if it hasn’t been oiled or acts in a temperamental fashion. Cold Meat Industries would be proud. One feels the artist’s moment of doubt: should I really have moved here? This question continues in “Corridors” and comes to a head in “Cry”; the walls are thin, and that is one loud baby.
But elsewhere, Byrd seems to be having a whole lot of fun. “Spiders” sounds like a group of skeletons finding a player piano, while “Urchin” comes across as a lost Hauschka track. “Wood” is packed with percussive pleasures, and even the warped “Dinnertime” ends in a synthesized wink, like the clopping of horses’ hooves outside an 18th century window. By the end of the tape, Byrd has made friends with his sonic environment; he’s even immortalized it on tape. The spiders have a purpose; the ghosts are no longer mad. Everyone gets to sleep, safe in the company of other noise makers. (Richard Allen)