What to do when stuck on an island during the pandemic? Some would embrace such a fate, while others would decry it. Manja Ristić, confined to the island of Korčula (Croatia), made the most of her unexpected furlough, wandering the shores and quarries to produce a document of curiosity, geography and environmental concern.
The island’s diverse ecosystem produces a rich biophony. This is Ristić’s third album this year, and the third to commune with aquatic environments. Requiem for the undersea addresses Korčula’s noise pollution: the heavy machinery near the docks, the drilling and digging of sea beds, the disruption of irreplaceable ecosystems. This theme continues on kairos and the dwellers, while Patient Love, a collaboration with Aleksander Lazar, is a live recording, an AV presentation, a poem and a hydroponic parable.
In light of such concerns, the uncapitalized first title “grief” may refer not only to the perceived stranding during the pandemic, but the unchecked loss of physical and sonic treasures. Ristić is painfully aware that what she records now may not be present later. The opening crackles already sound like mollusks, the low drone like the intrusion of machinery. But the artist does more than reflect; her recordings tend toward interdisciplinary splices of field recording and electro-acoustic composition. We hear what is there, plus the impression of what is there and is unfolding there, communicated through a spectrum of sound.
Ripples and tiny waves ground the listener in a sense of place. But as constant knockings echo underwater, one wonders, if the tiny sounds of buoys can carry so far, what disruptions might larger sounds cause? The drone grows throughout the piece. Imagine a group of neighbors, all hiring contractors to do construction with no indication of when it might end. Now imagine this construction causing the neighborhood’s electricity, water and internet to blink or fail for hours at a time. Now imagine being a crustacean ~ or in more developed terms, a dolphin or a whale. The effects are similar: agitation during the day, uneven sleep patterns at night, unwanted adaption.
The appearance of a child’s voice comes as a relief in “numb, quarry.” There is hammering, but there is still innocence. “dwellers” melds the sounds of life below and life above, amplifying the crickets in the pines along with splashes of waves and light voice. As the album progresses, one begins to make a begrudging peace with the fact that space is shared by natural and unnatural elements. The measured breath of “onda interna” sounds labored, a possible warning of the consequences to come.
The word kairos means an opportune time for action. The dwellers are many: not only shrimp and swallows, but us. While the dwellers of the forests and seas can only react, we can act ~ and now is the time to protect and preserve. If not, our islands of industry will become islands of irradiation. (Richard Allen)