Tiny Portraits ~ Industrial Set

A quick disclaimer for fans of German industrial DJ sets ~ don’t be fooled by the title!  This is a set of four field recording EPs, each recorded at an industrial site.  Feel free to play them concurrently with your favorite tunes for additional texture!

Kate Carr’s Flaming Pines label continues to go from strength to strength, having first found its stride with the Rivers Home and Birds of a Feather series.  The current series was launched three years ago, inviting artists to investigate connections between sound and place with an emphasis on the small and obscure.  The first dozen discs were recently offered as a bundle at a discount price.  Arash Akbari’s interactive sound map showcases the breadth of the entries to date.

Our suggested listening order is sparse to dense.  Michael Trommer‘s PortLands D starts so softly one wonders if it is there.  The same could be said of the location, or more specifically, the local waterfowl.  The port lands were once bustling, but were then abandoned and are now once again in transition.  As the ports go, so do the local residents, human and otherwise.  How will the new “Smart City” affect the fish and fowl?  Will recently revitalized populations decline as humanity again surges forward?  Will pollution increase, or will new regulations produce the opposite effect?  Hearing the light settling and subdued clanging of ships in port, one feels a sense of hope.  The birds seem to have made peace with their human neighbors.  Yet one is keenly aware of the fragility of the situation; one misstep, and the ripples will echo throughout the ecosystem.

Isnaj Dui‘s Dean Clough is so pretty that it’s unlikely to cause anyone to think about industry.  That is, until one realizes that this is a recording of Katie English playing flute in the resonant cellar below her work space.  The building, once “the world’s largest carpet factory,” is now home to artists and offices.  English found this tiny wonder while wandering about, leading one to muse on the sonic possibilities of repurposed rooms.  Many of us have visited clubs that were once factories or churches; this offering is an opposite form of discovery, a slice of silence that was once noise.  To play flute in this silence is akin to the decoration of an empty loft; the notes enrich, rather than diminish, the stillness.

Luca Nasciuti‘s South West Outward (Sleep Tight) does sound industrial, in the vein of artists such as Test Dept. (albeit without words).  The title is ironic in that this is not what most would consider sleep music; instead, it’s a slow-growing drone combining “an air conditioning fan, water sprays and other machinery,” an aural attempt to replicate the pervasive smell of a nearby Glasgow distillery.  The air blows the scent into homes, embeds it in cloth, sends it through respiratory systems.  In like manner, the music seeps into the brain.  Bagpipes add a note of revelry as the World Pipe Championships are taking place.  How can one sleep in such an environment?  Perhaps by giving in to the absurdity of such sonic juxtapositions.

Leo Okagawa‘s Rust takes up where Sleep Tight leaves off, with the mechanical sounds of Setagaza’s “semi-industrial district.”  The thick timbres of machinery recede to make room for quiet dripping and soft clanking.  The volume rises and falls in waves, reflecting the compositional choices.  To Okagawa, these injections are not “noise,” but memories.  Thanks to childhood exposure, even the dragging of a pipe was received as comfort.  The rough became smooth through repetition, acclimating him to his sonic environment.  Ironically, this piece sheds light on Nasciuti’s: when one is used to local sounds, one is able to sleep tight, even as visitors toss and turn.  In the modern era, the soothing sounds of machinery replace those of nature.  To extend this thought to its forlorn conclusion, a cricket might wake one from slumber while a steam press might not.  (Richard Allen)


One comment

  1. Hypnotic. Cool. Gently dynamic.

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