brb>voicecoil ~ reclaim

reclaim brings to mind two classic pop songs: Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (1970) and Talking Heads’ “Nothing But Flowers” (1988).  In the first, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”  In the second, “this used to be real estate, now it’s only fields and trees.”  Nature has a way of reclaiming her own, which is the point of the new album by Kevin Wilkinson, who goes by the unwieldy moniker of brb>voicecoil.

In Wilkinson’s words, “10 years ago I walked through crops, wildlife, fragile footbridges and small brooks. Today the space is occupied by sprawling residential estates, roads, pylons, business parks.”  He still finds beauty in the ecological soundscape.  “Over here,” a man calls in the opening moments.  Treasures yet remain: natural wonders, crevasses and streams.  I understand how Wilkinson feels, having returned to the park by my childhood home only to find buildings at every border.  The park was still a park, but one could no longer get lost in it.

As the downpour arrives in part one, a strange spell is cast.  Nature descends on metal and brick, creating echoes.  There is no escape from the touch of the clouds.  Wildlife pokes through the corners, scrambling for sonic purchase.  The timbres seem electro-acoustic, their huffs and beeps intermingled, creating a haunted impression.  But by the end, the natural soundscape is nearly silenced, replacing by hydraulic expressions.  A lone bird visits, tweets, and disappears, likely relocating to a friendlier site.

The center track is filled with scrapes and taps, like a person rustling through wreckage, or even worse, the wind blowing debris and reverberating against signs.  There’s no warmth to the piece; it’s as arid as cement.  A new sound, like the jangling of a hundred pockets of change, visits mid-track, more product than creature.  Traffic passes.  No one stops.  Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?

But the third piece offers some hope.  Wilkinson writes, “Abandoned farm buildings are currently being dismantled brick by brick by no mechanical means but by nature alone.”  There is solace in this slow, inevitable recline, eloquently described by Alan Weisman in The World Without Us.  As long as we’re here, we’ll continue to do damage; but should we fail to blow up the planet, we’ll disappear and she’ll keep returning, like the birds in Part 3, filling the trees with their triumphant song.  (Richard Allen)

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