ACL 2019 ~ Top Ten Field Recording & Soundscape

The glaciers are melting, species are disappearing, natural wonders are being turned into tourist traps, and all the while we’re on our cellphones, texting towards Bethlehem.  The artists below are in love with sound, especially disappearing sound, although they hope it will stay around just a little bit longer.  More than the artists in any other genre, they represent the name of our site, giving everything a closer listen, focusing on aural activities and helping us to appreciate the world around our ears.

There’s some fun to be had here as well: duets with nightingales, a curling soundscape, a celebration of time and the ways in which we measure it.  And now, A Closer Listen presents the best Field Recordings and Soundscapes of 2019!

Blind Cave Salamander ~ The Svalbard Suite (Hypershape)
The seeds of the world are safe in Svalbard in case we ever need them.  At least that was the intention when the Seed Bank was created.  A threat to the local permafrost has cast doubt on the sustainability of the facility intended to save the world.  Blind Cave Salamander has prepared a sweet sonic requiem, replete with miners’ choir, narrative dialogue and the sound of the great door closing: part of a larger project that includes film and dance.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

David Rothenberg ~ Nightingale Cities (Gruenrekorder)
David Rothenberg has spent his entire life committed to an idea: that other species might be willing to perform duets with us, if only we could find the right approach.  This is the theme of Nightingales in Berlin (the book) and Nightingale Cities (the album).  There’s also a movie.  The triumph of this set is that by the end, we’re right on the borderline of being convinced.  But even if birds want little to do with our woodwinds, this is still an engaging experiment, well worth the effort.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Jared Sagar ~ Tombland (Unfathomless)
The sounds we hear in recordings such as this are experiential ghosts. The Tombland of Norwich, UK, which is a city known already for its historical contrasts, is the source of a nightly feeling of in-betweenness, of being at the ethereal joint of two points in time. Sagar captured, in this sense, something eerie about the clashing sounds of wind and transit, of rain noisily pattering otherwise silent graves. Careful, lest you become a sound yourself. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

Jean-Philippe Gross ~ Curling (EICH)
Some people wonder how I find the time to write so much.  It’s because I watch so little TV.  But this too comes with a price; for example, I didn’t know what curling was until I heard this joyful release.  How did I miss a sport so unique, so fun and so LOUD?  And now I’m considering taking a curling class if I can convince a friend to sign up with me.  This is what a great soundscape can do: open a door to a world that one didn’t know existed.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Kate Carr ~ Contact (Gleaming Silver Ribbon)
All the zeroes and ones, all the Bluetooths and iPhones, all the dropped calls and missed texts ~ do they add up to anything, a new, binary sum?  Or is the total a negative number, reflected in a new sense of disconnection in an age in which the opposite is supposed to be true?  These questions and more are raised in Kate Carr’s timely, theatrical piece, which enlists dozens of people in an ironic attempt to reflect the effects of isolation.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Lucas Norer ~ Disposition (Self-Released)
The history of the Kufstein Heroes’ Organ is fraught with difficulties, but the organ is not to blame; it only wanted to be played, and for its tunes to be cherished.  Sadly it became a symbol of Nazism and a call to racial cleansing.  Lucas Norer seeks to wrest control of the narrative by exposing the past and expunging it with newer, brighter tones.  The idea of visiting organists, unrestricted by set lists, is intriguing one; for more, read the elegant essay in the accompanying book.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Manja Ristić ~ The Black Isle (Flag Day Recordings)
One of the year’s most effective soundscapes, The Black Isle merges field recordings, spoken word, drone and sparse instrumentation to create a mysterious, all-enveloping mood.  The album recalls summers spent on Korčula Island and the incongruities of visiting as an adult.  There are too many buildings now, too many tourists; to find an oasis, one must travel into the mind.  We’re happy to follow the artist down this rabbit hole of hiraeth.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Mark Fisher & Julian Barton ~ On Vanishing Land (Hyperdub)
The pastoral hauntology of the Suffolk coastline is explored in this immersive soundscape, which comes with a tour guide.  Mark Fisher provides the theme, Julian Barton the narration, Gazelle Twin and others the music.  This is like no walk one has ever taken before; the sounds are both real and surreal, the musings both worldly and otherworldly.  When all is said and done, listeners will be concerned about the vanishing land as well, although in this case “land” may also mean time.  (Richard Allen)

Boomkat sound samples

Hyperdub order page

Original Review

moltamole ~ ° and so we heard them melt (Self-Released)
It’s terrible to think of these beautiful places melting, yet they make such beautiful sounds as they go. We might consider this a parting gift from the glaciers which have done so much to stabilize our planet and its ecosystems.  As we say goodbye to them, we await a time in which the final glaciers might say goodbye to us; and maybe only then will the earth begin to stabilize once more.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Willem Sannen ~ Plots (Sonospace)
On Plots, field recordist Willem Sannen crafts portraits of sound events which often get dismissed in our everyday lives. The ever-present passage of time is accented in the connections drawn between what is man-created versus nature-given. The polyrhythms of raindrops on “Tombs” echo the amplified whirring of man’s bedside friend on “Digital Clock.” Elsewhere, the electronic grit of “Noise Floor” parallels the inflamed fizzling of “Matchstick.” Willem’s recordings are refreshingly left unadorned throughout, perhaps out of respect for the wholeness of the sounds as he found them.  (Todd B. Gruel)

Original Review

One comment

  1. Pingback: 2019 Best of Lists from Around the Web: Part IX – Avant Music News

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