Jared Sagar ~ Tombland

The last time we encountered sound artist Jared Sagar, he was soundtracking the sea on a disc titled Holme. This time he’s brought his ears inland to a different sort of home: the Tombland district of Norwich in the U.K.  Wandering the streets in the middle of the night, he catches all manner of intriguing sounds, proving that the name (meaning “empty space”) is a misnomer.

5000 plague victims are supposedly buried deep in Tombland.  When Sagar describes a place as the “most haunted,” he implies that many ~ or perhaps all places ~ are haunted.  One can hear these timbres in the wind, the rusty swing, the glass moved across a table.  And of course there’s rain ~ a sad and lonely downpour that sweeps down the cobbled streets.

But there’s more here than simple haunting.  Sagar describes “the blend of old and modern; traffic noise, people with chaotic lives, cobbled paths, vintage shops, forgotten history,” “the quietude … of flickering lightbulbs” and the sense of peace that arrives when one feels connected to memory and place.  This too is home.  In such light, the spirits seem like friends, the bricks ancestors, the wind encouraging whispers.  Back alleys are not places of fear but of remembrance and discovery: not haunted, but hallowed.

Just as one is starting to feel at ease, a series of shaker sounds enter in the 33rd minute, at one point ending abruptly and restarting.  It’s not evident what they represent: a seance, a visitation, a need to hurry down the rest of that alley.  Just as swiftly, the sound retreats, replaced by dark toned drones.  Hollow static fills the closing minutes, offering an audio Rorschach test:  what do you hear in these sounds?  Despite the composer’s comfort, he titles his CD Tombland instead of Norwich.  It may be a jewel, but it’s still connected to a corpse.  (Richard Allen)

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