Brussels’ Unfathomless label continues to go from strength to strength with a pair of particularly strong releases. Philip Sulidae heads into the bushland of Australia, while Yiorgis Sakellariou ventures off to the Temple of Artemis. As one might expect from these settings, their forays yield two extremely different recordings.
Ramshead is exciting right from the start, like a thriller that never lets up. It begins with what sounds like a large tree crashing, then crashes into a dense thicket of flora and fauna, tumbling from one exciting field to the next. While there’s great value in unedited, single-source field recordings, this sort of soundscape may be the best way to entice people into the genre. Sulidae makes no claim of literal reflection, instead preferring to dissemble the pieces and fuse them into a larger piece of sonic art. We hear his footsteps in the park as he fights through foliage or retreats to a stream. In the heavier segments, these recordings border on drone, although one might make a case for rock as well ~ not just the granite formations on the cover, but the visceral energy produced by a rock band. The location offers extreme climate variations, often in a single day, a fact Sulidae reflects. But there’s also great attention to detail, as the sonic microscope locates specific birds, bands of crickets, running water and in “Swampy Plain”, something that sounds like sleet. No single source overstays its welcome; edited from what must have been hours or even days of recordings, the end result is the best of the best, playing out like Kosciuszko National Park’s Greatest Hits. If any single location was this exciting all the time, we’d be on a plane the same day. Instead, it’s a magical creation that first existed in the artist’s head, and is now available to us all.
The lush atmosphere of Ramshead is balanced by the aridity of In Aulis, a single-track recording that links history, sacrifice and myth. Yiorgis Sakellariou has written an excellent essay about the genesis of the recording, which we encourage you to read on the release page. Ironically, the first sound we detect is silence, an intentional choice that implies the reaction to fallen kingdoms, the stilling of wind in the myth, or the world before creation. But as John Cage famously noted, there’s no such thing as silence; it’s all a matter of attuning to one’s environment. Sounds slowly begin to seep into the consciousness, the composition building in minute increments until one wonders if there were ever silence at all. Some of the sound may be due to the intrusion of the artist, a Catch-22 alluded to in the reference to noise as violence. There’s scraping and clunking about; is the temple being defiled or reconstructed? There’s no way to be certain. Sakellariou likens the composer’s role to tidying up: constructing a narrative out of chaos. Now that these sonic fragments have been sorted into glass and digital frames, are they sacrifices worthy of a goddess? And if so, might she break her own silence to respond? We hear no words, only hot, incriminating breath; and in the deluge that follows, even that is washed away. (Richard Allen)