A thunderstorm is a symphony of sound, with distinct movements marked by restraint and bombast. Some last for minutes, others hours. The storm that Sergey Pakhomov captured on July 1 in Elektrostal, Russia is particularly dramatic, with all of the elements one may seek in such a recording. It’s a rare sort of document, a “pure” field recording without editing or overdubs: just a man, a storm and a Roland R-26. Thanks to the beauty of the internet, this recording was shared a mere week after the incident.
Much of the downpour arrives early, with one gigantic crack of thunder guaranteed to send the cats and dogs underneath the couch. The pounding of rain on what seems to be a tin roof is particularly effective. Some incidental traffic and the sound of passers-by adds to the allure, reminding us that the thunderstorm was experienced as well as witnessed. Then it seems that the storm has passed, but it’s just a brief respite; one imagines seeing the clouds all around, the lightning descending from the approaching cumulonimbus clouds. At this point, it’s interesting to note that the album has two covers: the official scrawl by Quinten De Coene, which takes the shape of the storm, and the alternate cover by Pakhomov, a photograph that seems to have been taken during an interlude, looking down into a puddle in order to look up into the clouds.
Many minutes pass until the rain starts up again, but it returns with a vengeance. This time, the thunder seems relentless. Birds tweet their impressions of the weather: the change in barometer, the ongoing precipitation, the hope for the sun to return. Street gates rattle, children murmur, storm drains overflow.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this recording is its simplicity. County Town Thunderstorm reminds us of the wonder of nature and the joy of being startled by the skies. Imagine for a moment that you are talking about a storm with a friend. Your friend exclaims, “That was some storm!” You respond, “Would you like to hear it again?” For a field recordist, this may seem a common occurrence; for regular folks it may seem like a miracle.
On this release, we hear more than just a storm; we hear music, replete with melodies and counter-melodies, recurring themes, a happy ending, a soft denouement and a final sense of catharsis. The danger has passed, but thanks to this recording, the enjoyment has just begun. (Richard Allen)